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Cities of the Plain - Volume IV of Remembrance of Things Past

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					REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS PAST
         MARCEL PROUST




VOLUME IV - CITIES OF THE PLAIN




        NALANDA DIGITAL LIBRARY
NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY CALICUT
     CALICUT – 673601 , KERALA , INDIA
       http://www.nalanda.nitc.ac.in
             Cities of the Plain by Marcel Proust from Nalanda Digital Library (http://www.nalanda.nitc.ac.in)




Cities of the Plain
[Vol. 4 of Remembrance of Things Past]



Marcel Proust
Translated from the French
by C. K. Scott Moncrieff




NALANDA DIGITAL LIBRARY
NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY CALICUT
CALICUT , KERALA STATE , INDIA
http://www.nalanda.nitc.ac.in


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CONTENTS


       Part I


       Introducing the men-women, descendants of
those of the inhabitants of Sodom who were spared
by the fire from heaven.


Chapter ONE M. de Charlus in Society--A physician-
-Typical physiognomy of Mme.                                             de Vaugoubert--
Mme. d'Arpajon, the Hubert Robert fountain and the
merriment of the Grand Duke Vladimir--Mmes.
d'Amoncourt,                   de       Citri,        de       Saint-Euverte,                     etc.--
Curious conversation between Swann and the Prince
de Guermantes--Albertine on the telephone--My
social life in the interval before my second and final
visit to Balbec--Arrival at Balbec.


       The Heart's Intermissions




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Chapter TWO The mysteries of Albertine--The girls
whom she sees reflected in the glass--The other
woman--The lift-boy--Madame de Cambremer.


       Part II


Chapter TWO (continued) The pleasures of M.
Nissim Bernard (continued)--Outline of the strange
character of Morel--M. de Charlus dines with the
Verdurins.


Chapter THREE The sorrows of M. de Charlus--His
sham duel--The stations on the "Transatlantic"--
Weary of Albertine, I decide to break with her.


Chapter              FOUR Sudden                         revulsion              in      favour            of
Albertine--Agony at sunrise--I set off at once with
Albertine for Paris,




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       TRANSLATOR'S DEDICATION


       To


       Richard and Myrtle Kurt and Their Creator
       Pisa, 1927




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PART I


       Introducing the men-women, descendants of
those of the inhabitants of Sodom who were spared
by the fire from heaven.


       La femme aura Gomorrhe et l'homme aura
Sodome. Alfred de Vigny.


          The reader will remember that, long before
going that day (on the evening of which the
Princesse de Guermantes was to give her party) to
pay the Duke and Duchess the visit which I have
just described, I had kept watch for their return and
had made, in the course of my vigil, a discovery
which, albeit concerning M. de Charlus in particular,
was in itself so important that I have until now, until
the moment when I could give it the prominence
and treat it with the fulness that it demanded,
postponed giving any account of it. I had, as I have
said, left the marvellous point of vantage, so snugly
contrived             for        me         at       the        top         of      the         house,

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commanding the broken and irregular slopes leading
up to the Hôtel de Bréquigny, and gaily decorated in
the Italian manner by the rose-pink campanile of
the Marquis de Frécourt's stables. I had felt it to be
more convenient, when I thought that the Duke and
Duchess were on the point of returning, to post
myself on the staircase. I regretted somewhat the
abandonment of my watch-tower. But at that time
of day, namely the hour immediately following
luncheon, I had less cause for regret, for I should
not then have seen, as in the morning, the foptmen
of the Bréquigny-Tresmes household, converted by
distance into minute figures in a picture, make their
leisurely ascent of the abrupt precipice, feather-
brush in hand, behind the large, transparent flakes
of mica which stood out so charmingly upon its
ruddy bastions. Failing the geologist's field of
contemplation, I had at least that of the botanist,
and was peering through the shutters of the
staircase window at the Duchess's little tree and at
the precious plant, exposed in the courtyard with
that insistence with which mothers 'bring out' their


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marriageable offspring, and asking myself whether
the unlikely insect would come, by a providential
hazard, to visit the offered and neglected pistil. My
curiosity emboldening me by degrees, I went down
to the ground-floor window, which also stood open
with its shutters ajar. I could hear distinctly, as he
got ready to go out, Jupien who could not detect me
behind my blind, where I stood perfectly still until
the moment when I drew quickly aside in order not
to be seen by M. de Charlus, who, on his way to call
upon Mme. de Villeparisis, was slowly crossing the
courtyard, a pursy figure, aged by the strong light,
his       hair         visibly           grey.           Nothing               short           of       an
indisposition of Mme. de Villeparisis (consequent on
the illness of the Marquis de Fierbois, with whom he
personally was at daggers drawn) could have made
M. de Charlus pay a call, perhaps for the first time in
his life, at that hour of the day. For with that
eccentricity of the Guermantes, who, instead of
conforming to the ways of society, used to modify
them to suit their own personal habits (habits not,
they thought, social, and deserving in consequence


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the abasement before them of that thing of no
value, Society--thus it was that Mme. de Marsantes
had no regular 'day,' but was at home to her friends
every morning between ten o'clock and noon), the
Baron, reserving those hours for reading, hunting
for old curiosities and so forth, paid calls only
between four and six in the afternoon. At six o'clock
he went to the Jockey Club, or took a stroll in the
Bois. A moment later, I again recoiled, in order not
to be seen by Jupien. It was nearly time for him to
start for the office, from which he would return only
for dinner, and not even then always during the last
week, his niece and her apprentices having gone to
the country to finish a dress there for a customer.
Then, realising that no one could see me, I decided
not to let myself be disturbed again, for fear of
missing, should the miracle be fated to occur, the
arrival,         almost             beyond             the        possibility              of      hope
(across so many obstacles of distance, of adverse
risks, of dangers), of the insect sent from so far as
ambassador to the virgin who had so long been
waiting           for       him         to      appear.             I     knew           that         this


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expectancy was no more passive than in the male
flower, whose stamens had spontaneously curved so
that the insect might more easily receive their
offering; similarly the female flower that stood here,
if the insect came, would coquettishly arch her
styles; and, to be more effectively penetrated by
him,          would              imperceptibly                      advance,                 like          a
hypocritical but ardent damsel, to meet him half-
way. The laws of the vegetable kingdom are
themselves governed by other laws, increasingly
exalted. If the visit of an insect, that is to say, the
transportation of the seed of one flower is generally
necessary for the fertilisation of another, that is
because autofecundation, the fertilisation of a flower
by       itself,         would             lead,          like        a       succession                  of
intermarriages in the same family, to degeneracy
and sterility, whereas the crossing effected by the
insects gives to the subsequent generations of the
same species a vigour unknown to their forebears.
This invigoration may, however, prove excessive,
the species develop out of all proportion; then, as
an anti-toxin protects us against disease, as the


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thyroid gland regulates our adiposity, as defeat
comes to punish pride, fatigue, indulgence, and as
sleep         in       turn         depends                upon           fatigue,             so       an
exceptional act of autofecundation comes at a given
point to apply its turn of the screw, its pull on the
curb, brings back within normal limits the flower
that has exaggerated its transgression of them. My
reflexions had followed a tendency which I shall
describe in due course, and I had already drawn
from the visible stratagems of flowers a conclusion
that bore upon a whole unconscious element of
literary work, when I saw M. de Charlus coming
away from the Marquise. Perhaps he had learned
from his elderly relative herself, or merely from a
servant, the great improvement, or rather her
complete recovery from what had been nothing
more than a slight indisposition. At this moment,
when he did not suspect that anyone was watching
him, his eyelids lowered as a screen against the
sun, M. de Charlus had relaxed that tension in his
face, deadened that artificial vitality, which the
animation of his talk and the force of his will kept in


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evidence there as a rule. Pale as marble, his nose
stood out firmly, his fine features no longer received
from an expression deliberately assumed a different
meaning               which            altered             the         beauty              of       their
modelling; nothing more now than a Guermantes,
he seemed already carved in stone, he Pala-mède
the Fifteenth, in their chapel at Combray. These
general features of a whole family took on, however,
in the face of M. de Charlus a fineness more
spiritualised, above all more gentle. I regretted for
his sake that he should habitually adulterate with so
many acts of violence, offensive oddities, tale-
bearings, with such harshness, susceptibility and
arrogance, that he should conceal beneath a false
brutality the amenity, the kindness which, at the
moment of his emerging from Mme. de Villeparisis's,
I could see displayed so innocently upon his face.
Blinking his eyes in the sunlight, he seemed almost
to be smiling, I found in his face seen thus in repose
and, so to speak, in its natural state something so
affectionate, so disarmed, that I could not help
thinking how angry M. de Charlus would have been


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could he have known that he was being watched;
for what was suggested to me by the sight of this
man who was so insistent, who prided himself so
upon his virility, to whom all other men seemed
odiously effeminate, what he made me suddenly
think of, so far had he momentarily assumed her
features, expression, smile, was a woman.


       I was about to change my position again, so
that he should not catch sight of me; I had neither
the time nor the need to do so. What did I see?
Face to face, in that courtyard where certainly they
had never met before (M. de Charlus coming to the
Hôtel de Guermantes only in the afternoon, during
the time when Jupien was at his office), the Baron,
having suddenly opened wide his half-shut eyes,
was studying with unusual attention the ex-tailor
poised on the threshold of his shop, while the latter,
fastened suddenly to the ground before M. de
Charlus,            taking            root         in      it     like        a      plant,          was
contemplating with a look of amazement the plump
form         of        the         middle-aged                    Baron.             But,          more


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astounding still, M. de Charlus's attitude having
changed, Jupien's, as though in obedience to the
laws of an occult art, at once brought itself into
harmony with it. The Baron, who was now seeking
to conceal the impression that had been made on
him,        and         yet,         in      spite          of      his        affectation                of
indifference, seemed unable to move away without
regret, went, came, looked vaguely into the distance
in the way which, he felt, most enhanced the beauty
of his           eyes,          assumed                a     complacent,                   careless,
fatuous air. Meanwhile Jupien, shedding at once the
humble, honest expression which I had always
associated with him, had--in perfect symmetry with
the Baron--thrown up his head, given a becoming
tilt to his body, placed his hand with a grotesque
impertinence on his hip, stuck out his behind, posed
himself with the coquetry that the orchid might have
adopted on the providential arrival of the bee. I had
not supposed that he could appear so repellent. But
I was equally unaware that he was capable of
improvising his part in this sort of dumb charade,
which (albeit he found himself for the first time in


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the presence of M. de Charlus) seemed to have
been long and carefully rehearsed; one does not
arrive spontaneously at that pitch of perfection
except when one meets in a foreign country a
compatriot with whom an understanding then grows
up      of      itself,         both          parties           speaking               the        same
language, even though they have never seen one
another before.


       This scene was not, however, positively comic, it
was stamped with a strangeness, or if you like a
naturalness, the beauty of which steadily increased.
M. de Charlus might indeed assume a detached air,
indifferently let his eyelids droop; every now and
then he raised them, and at such moments turned
on Jupien an attentive gaze. But (doubtless because
he felt that such a scene could not be prolonged
indefinitely in this place, whether for reasons which
we shall learn later on, or possibly from that feeling
of     the        brevity           of       all      things           which           makes             us
determine that every blow must strike home, and
renders so moving the spectacle of every kind of


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love), each time that M. de Charlus looked at
Jupien, he took care that his glance should be
accompanied by a spoken word, which made it
infinitely unlike the glances we usually direct at a
person whom we do or do not know; he stared at
Jupien with the peculiar fixity of the person who is
about to say to us: "Excuse my taking the liberty,
but you have a long white thread hanging down
your back," or else: "Surely I can't be mistaken, you
come from Zurich too; I'm certain I must have seen
you there often in the curiosity shop." Thus, every
other minute, the same question seemed to be
being intensely put to Jupien in the stare of M. de
Charlus,              like         those             questioning                   phrases                of
Beethoven indefinitely repeated at regular intervals,
and intended--with an exaggerated lavish-ness of
preparation--to introduce a new theme, a change of
tone, a 'reentry.' On the other hand, the beauty of
the reciprocal glances of M. de Charlus and Jupien
arose precisely from the fact that they did not, for
the moment at least, seem to be intended to lead to
anything further. This beauty, it was the first time


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that I had seen the Baron and Jupien display it. In
the eyes of both of them, it was the sky not of
Zurich but of some Oriental city, the name of which
I    had        not        yet        divined,             that        I     saw          reflected.
Whatever the point might be that held M. de Charlus
and the ex-tailor thus arrested, their pact seemed
concluded and these superfluous glances to be but
ritual preliminaries, like the parties that people give
before          a      marriage                which            has        been           definitely
'arranged.'                Nearer               still        to        nature--and                     the
multiplicity of these analogies is itself all the more
natural in that the same man, if we examine him for
a few minutes, appears in turn as a man, a man-
bird or man-insect, and so forth--one would have
called them a pair of birds, the male and the female,
the male seeking to make advances, the female--
Jupien--no longer giving any sign of response to
these overtures, but regarding her new friend
without surprise, with an inattentive fixity of gaze,
which she doubtless felt to be more disturbing and
the only effective method, once the male had taken
the first steps, and had fallen back upon preening


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his feathers. At length Jupien's indifference seemed
to suffice him no longer; from this certainty of
having conquered, to making himself be pursued
and desired was but the next stage, and Jupien,
deciding to go off to his work, passed through the
carriage gate. It was only, however, after turning
his head two or three times that he escaped into the
street towards which the Baron, trembling lest he
should lose the trail (boldly humming a tune, not
forgetting to fling a 'Good day' to the porter, who,
half-tipsy himself and engaged in treating a few
friends in his back kitchen, did not even hear him),
hurried briskly to overtake him. At the same instant,
just as M. de Charlus disappeared through the gate
humming like a great bumble-bee, another, a real
bee this time, came into the courtyard. For all I
knew this might be the one so long awaited by the
orchid, which was coming to bring it that rare pollen
without which it must die a virgin. But I was
distracted from following the gyrations of the insect
for, a few minutes later, engaging my attention
afresh, Jupien (perhaps to pick up a parcel which he


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did       take         away            with         him          eventually                and         so,
presumably,                  in       the        emotion               aroused               by        the
apparition of M. de Charlus, had forgotten, perhaps
simply for a more natural reason) returned, followed
by the Baron. The latter, deciding to cut short the
preliminaries, asked the tailor for a light, but at
once observed: "I ask you for a light, but I find that
I have left my cigars at home." The laws of
hospitality prevailed over those of coquetry. "Come
inside, you shall have everything you require," said
the tailor, on whose features disdain now gave place
to joy. The door of the shop closed behind them and
I could hear no more. I had lost sight of the bee. I
did not know whether he was the insect that the
orchid needed, but I had no longer any doubt, in the
case of an extremely rare insect and a captive
flower,          of       the         miraculous                 possibility               of       their
conjunction when M. de Charlus (this is simply a
comparison of providential hazards, whatever they
may be, without the slightest scientific claim to
establish a relation between certain laws and what is
sometimes, most ineptly, termed homosexuality),


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who for years past had never come to the house
except at hours when Jupien was not there, by the
mere accident of Mme. de Villeparisis's illness had
encountered the tailor, and with him the good
fortune reserved for men of the type of the Baron by
one of those fellow-creatures who may indeed be,
as we shall see, infinitely younger than Jupien and
better looking, the man predestined to exist in order
that they may have their share of sensual pleasure
on this earth; the man who cares only for elderly
gentlemen.


       All that I have just said, however, I was not to
understand until several minutes had elapsed; so
much is reality encumbered by those properties of
invisibility until a chance occurrence has divested it
of them. Anyhow, for the moment I was greatly
annoyed at not being able to hear any more of the
conversation between the ex-tailor and the Baron. I
then         bethought                 myself             of       the         vacant             shop,
separated from Jupien's only by a partition that was
extremely slender. I had, in order to get to it,


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merely to go up to our flat, pass through the
kitchen, go down by the service stair to the cellars,
make my way through them across the breadth of
the courtyard above, and on coming to the right
place underground, where the joiner had, a few
months ago, still been storing his timber and where
Jupien intended to keep his coal, climb the flight of
steps which led to the interior of the shop. Thus the
whole of my journey would be made under cover, I
should not be seen by anyone. This was the most
prudent method. It was not the one that I adopted,
but, keeping close to the walls, I made a circuit in
the open air of the courtyard, trying not to let
myself be seen. If I was not, I owe it more, I am
sure, to chance than to my own sagacity. And for
the fact that I took so imprudent a course, when the
way through the cellar was so safe, I can see three
possible reasons, assuming that I had any reason at
all. First of all, my impatience. Secondly, perhaps, a
dim memory of the scene at Montjouvain, when I
stood concealed outside Mlle. Vinteuil's window.
Certainly, the affairs of this sort of which I have


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been a spectator have always been presented in a
setting of the most imprudent and least probable
character, as if such revelations were to be the
reward of an action full of risk, though in part
clandestine. Lastly, I hardly dare, so childish does it
appear, to confess the third reason, which was, I am
quite sure, unconsciously decisive. Since, in order to
follow--and see controverted--the military principles
enunciated by Saint-Loup, I had followed in close
detail the course of the Boer war, I had been led on
from that to read again old accounts of explorations,
narratives of travel. These stories had excited me,
and I applied them to the events of my daily life to
stimulate my courage. When attacks of illness had
compelled me to remain for several days and nights
on end not only without sleep but without lying
down, without tasting food or drink, at the moment
when my pain and exhaustion became so intense
that I felt that I should never escape from them, I
would think of some traveller cast on the beach,
poisoned by noxious herbs, shivering with fever in
clothes            drenched                 by         the          salt          water,             who


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nevertheless in a day or two felt stronger, rose and
went blindly upon his way, in search of possible
inhabitants who might, when he came to them,
prove cannibals. His example acted on me as a
tonic, restored my hope, and I felt ashamed of my
momentary discouragement. Thinking of the Boers
who, with British armies facing them, were not
afraid to expose themselves at the moment when
they had to cross, in order to reach a covered
position, a tract of open country: "It would be a fine
thing," I thought to myself, "if I were to shew less
courage when the theatre of operations is simply
the human heart, and when the only steel that I,
who engaged in more than one duel without fear at
the time of the Dreyfus case, have to fear is that of
the eyes of the neighbours who have other things to
do besides looking into the courtyard,"


       But when I was inside the shop, taking care not
to let any plank in the floor make the slightest
creak, as I found that the least sound in Jupien's
shop could be heard from the other, I thought to


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myself how rash Jupien and M. de Charlus had been,
and how wonderfully fortune had favoured them.


       I did not dare move. The Guermantes groom,
taking advantage no doubt of his master's absence,
had, as it happened, transferred to the shop in
which I now stood a ladder which hitherto had been
kept in the coach-house, and if I had climbed this I
could have opened the ventilator above and heard
as well as if I had been in Jupien's shop itself. But I
was afraid of making a noise. Besides, it was
unnecessary. I had not even cause to regret my not
having arrived in the shop until several minutes had
elapsed. For from what I heard at first in Jupien's
shop, which was only a series of inarticulate sounds,
I imagine that few words had been exchanged. It is
true that these sounds were so violent that, if one
set had not always been taken up an octave higher
by a parallel plaint, I might have thought that one
person was strangling another within a few feet of
me, and that subsequently the murderer and his
resuscitated victim were taking a bath to wash away


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the traces of the crime. I concluded from this later
on that there is another thing as vociferous as pain,
namely pleasure, especially when there is added to
it--failing the fear of an eventual parturition, which
could not be present in this case, despite the hardly
convincing               example               in      the        Golden              Legend--an
immediate afterthought of cleanliness. Finally, after
about half an hour (during which time I had climbed
on tip-toe up my ladder so as to peep through the
ventilator which I did not open), a conversation
began. Jupien refused with insistence the money
that M. de Charlus was pressing upon him.


       "Why do you have your chin shaved like that,"
he inquired of the Baron in a cajoling tone. "It's so
becoming, a nice beard." "Ugh! It's disgusting," the
Baron replied. Meanwhile he still lingered upon the
threshold and plied Jupien with questions about the
neighbourhood. "You don't know anything about the
man who sells chestnuts at the corner, not the one
on the left, he's a horror, but the other way, a
great, dark fellow? And the chemist opposite, he has


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a charming cyclist who delivers his parcels." These
questions must have ruffled Jupien, for, drawing
himself up with the scorn of a great courtesan who
has been forsaken, he replied: "I can see you are
completely heartless." Uttered in a pained, frigid,
affected tone, this reproach must have made its
sting felt by M. de Charlus, who, to counteract the
bad impression made by his curiosity, addressed to
Jupien, in too low a tone for me to be able to make
out his words, a request the granting of which would
doubtless necessitate their prolonging-their sojourn
in the shop, and which moved the tailor sufficiently
to make-him forget his annoyance, for he studied
the Baron's face, plump and flushed beneath his
grey hair, with the supremely blissful air of a person
whose            self-esteem                  has          just         been           profoundly
flattered, and, deciding to grant M. de Charlus the
favour that he had just asked of him, after various
remarks lacking in refinement such as: "Aren't you
naughty!"              said         to       the        Baron            with         a      smiling,
emotional, superior and grateful air: "All right, you
big baby, come along!"


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       "If I hark back to the question of the tram
conductor," M. de Charlus went on imperturbably,
"it is because, apart from anything else, he might
offer me some entertainment on my homeward
journey. For it falls to my lot, now and then, like the
Caliph who used to roam the streets of Bagdad in
the guise of a common merchant, to condescend to
follow some curious little person whose profile may
have taken my fancy." I made at this point the
same observation that I had made on Bergotte. If
he should ever have to plead before a bench, he
would employ not the sentences calculated to
convince              his        judges,              but          such           Bergottesque
sentences as his peculiar literary temperament
suggested to him and made him find pleasure in
using. Similarly M. de Charlus, in conversing with
the tailor, made use of the same language that he
would have used to fashionable people of his own
set, even exaggerating its eccentricities, whether
because the shyness which he was striving to
overcome drove him to an excess of pride or, by


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preventing him from mastering himself (for we are
always less at our ease in the company of some one
who is not of our station), forced him to unveil, to
lay bare his true nature, which was, in fact, arrogant
and a trifle mad, as Mme. de Guermantes had
remarked. "So as not to lose the trail," he went on,
"I spring like a little usher, like a young and good-
looking doctor, into the same car as the little person
herself, of whom we speak in the feminine gender
only so as to conform with the rules of grammar (as
we say, in speaking of a Prince, 'Is His Highness
enjoying her usual health'). If she changes her car, I
take, with possibly the germs of the plague, that
incredible thing called a 'transfer,' a number, and
one which, albeit it is presented to me, is not always
number one! I change 'carriages' in this way as
many as three or four times, I end up sometimes at
eleven o'clock at night at the Orleans station and
have to come home.                                   Still, if it were only the
Orleans station! Once, I must tell you, not having
managed to get into conversation sooner, I went all
the way to Orleans itself, in one of those frightful


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compartments where one has, to rest one's eyes
upon, between triangles of what is known as 'string-
work,' photographs of the principal architectural
features of the line. There was only one vacant seat;
I had in front of me, as an historic edifice, a 'view'
of the Cathedral of Orleans, quite the ugliest in
France, and as tiring a thing to have to stare at in
that way against my will as if somebody had forced
me to focus its towers in the lens of one of those
optical penholders which give one ophthalmia. I got
out of the train at Les Aubrais together with my
young person, for whom alas his family (when I had
imagined him to possess every defect except that of
having a family) were waiting on the platform! My
sole consolation, as I waited for a train to take me
back to Paris, was the house of Diane de Poitiers.
She may indeed have charmed one of my royal
ancestors, I should have preferred a more living
beauty. That is why, as an antidote to the boredom
of returning home by myself, I should rather like to
make friends with a sleeping-car attendant or the
conductor of an omnibus. Now, don't be shocked,"


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the Baron wound up, "it is all a question of class.
With what you call 'young gentlemen,' for instance,
I feel no desire actually to have them, but I am
never satisfied until I have touched them, I don't
mean physically, but touched a responsive chord. As
soon as, instead of leaving my letters unanswered, a
young man starts writing to me incessantly, when
he is morally at my disposal, I grow calm again, or
at least I should grow calm were I not immediately
caught by the attraction of another. Rather curious,
ain't it?--Speaking of 'young gentlemen,' those that
come to the house here, do you know any of them?"
"No, baby. Oh, yes, I do, a dark one, very tall, with
an eye-.                glass, who keeps smiling and turning
round." "I don't know who' you mean." Jupien filled
in the portrait, but M. de Charlus could not succeed
in identifying its subject, not knowing that the ex-
tailor was one of those persons, more common than
is generally supposed, who never remember the
colour of the hair of people they do not know well.
But to me, who was aware of this infirmity in Jupien
and        substituted                 'fair'        for        'dark,'           the         portrait


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appeared to be an exact description of the Duc de
Châtellerault.                 "To return to young men not of the
lower orders," the Baron went on, "at the present
moment my head has been turned by a strange
little fellow, an intelligent little cit who shews with
regard to myself a prodigious want of civility. He has
absolutely no idea of the prodigious personage that
I am, and of the microscopic animalcule that he is in
comparison. After all, what does it matter, the little
ass may bray his head off before my august bishop's
mantle." "Bishop!" cried Jupien, who had understood
nothing of M. de Charlus's concluding remarks, but
was completely taken aback by the word bishop.
"But that sort of thing doesn't go with religion," he
said. "I have three Popes in my family," replied M.
de Charlus, "and enjoy the right to mantle in gules
by virtue of a cardinalatial title, the niece of the
Cardinal, my great-uncle, having conveyed to my
grandfather the title of Duke which was substituted
for it. I see, though, that metaphor leaves you deaf
and French history cold. Besides," he added, less
perhaps by way of conclusion than as a warning,


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"this attraction that I feel towards the young people
who avoid me, from fear of course, for only their
natural respect stops their mouths from crying out
to me that they love me, requires in them an
outstanding social position. And again, their feint of
indifference may produce, in spite of that, the
directly opposite effect.                                 Fatuously prolonged, it
sickens me. To take an example from a class with
which you are more familiar, when they were doing
up my Hôtel, so as not to create jealousies among
all the duchesses who were vying with one another
for the honour of being able to say that they had
given me a lodging, I went for a few days to an
'hotel,' as they call inns nowadays.                                                 One of the
bedroom valets I knew, I pointed out to him an
interesting little page who used to open and shut
the front door, and who remained refractory to my
proposals. Finally, losing my temper, in order to
prove to him that my intentions were pure, I made
him an offer of a ridiculously high sum simply to
come upstairs and talk to me for five minutes in my
room. I waited for him in vain. I then took such a


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dislike to him that I used to go out by the service
door so as not to see his villainous little mug at the
other. I learned afterwards that he had never had
any of my notes, which had been intercepted, the
first by the bedroom valet, who was jealous, the
next by the day porter, who was virtuous, the third
by the night porter, who was in love with the little
page, and used to couch with him at the hour when
Dian rose. But my disgust persisted none the less,
and were they to bring me the page, simply like a
dish of venison on a silver platter, I should thrust
him away with a retching stomach. But there's the
unfortunate part of it, we have spoken of serious
matters, and now all is over between us, there can
be no more question of what I hoped to secure. But
you could render me great services, act as my
agent; why no, the mere thought of such a thing
restores my vigour, and I can see that all is by no
means over."


       >From the beginning of this scene a revolution,
in my unsealed eyes, had occurred in M. de Charlus,


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as complete, as immediate as if he had been
touched by a magician's wand. Until then, because I
had not understood, I had not seen. The vice (we
use the word for convenience only), the vice of each
of us accompanies him through life after the manner
of the familiar genius who was invisible to men so
long as they were unaware of his presence.                                                            Our
goodness, our meanness, our name, our social
relations do not disclose themselves to the eye, we
carry them hidden within us. Even Ulysses did not at
once          recognise                 Athena.               But          the         gods            are
immediately perceptible to one another, as quickly
like to like, and so too had M. de Charlus been to
Jupien. Until that moment I had been, in the
presence of M. de Charlus, in the position of an
absent-minded                      man            who,           standing               before             a
pregnant woman whose distended outline he has
failed to remark, persists, while she smilingly
reiterates: "Yes, I am a little tired just now," in
asking her indiscreetly: "Why, what is the matter
with you?" But let some one say to him: "She is
expecting a child," suddenly he catches sight of her


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abdomen and ceases to see anything else. It is the
explanation that opens our eyes; the dispelling of an
error gives us an additional sense.


       Those of my readers who do not care to refer,
for examples of this law, to the Messieurs de
Charlus of their acquaintance, whom for long years
they had never suspected, until the day when, upon
the smooth surface of the individual just like
everyone else, there suddenly appeared, traced in
an      ink        hitherto             invisible,             the         characters                that
compose the word dear to the ancient Greeks, have
only, in order to convince themselves that the world
which surrounds them appears to them at first
naked, bare of a thousand ornaments which it offers
to the eyes of others better informed, to remind
themselves how many times in the course of their
lives they have found themselves on the point of
making             a      blunder.              Nothing               upon           the         blank,
undocumented face of this man or that could have
led them to suppose that he was precisely the
brother, or the intended husband, or the lover of a


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woman of whom they were just going to remark:
"What a cow!" But then, fortunately, a word
whispered to them by some one standing near
arrests the fatal expression on their lips. At once
there appear, like a Mené, Tekel, Upharsin, the
words: "He is engaged to," or, "he is the brother
of," or "he is the lover of the woman whom we
ought not to describe, in his hearing, as a cow." And
this one new conception will bring about an entire
regrouping, thrusting some back, others forward, of
the fractional conceptions, henceforward a complete
whole, which we possessed of the rest of the family.
In M. de Charlus another creature might indeed
have coupled itself with him which made him as
different from other men as the horse makes the
centaur,              this          creature                might              indeed              have
incorporated itself in the Baron, I had never caught
a glimpse of it. Now the abstraction had become
materialised, the creature at last discerned had lost
its       power             of        remaining                  invisible,              and           the
transformation of M. de Charlus into a new person
was so complete that not only the contrasts of his


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face, of his voice, but, in retrospect, the very ups
and downs of his relations with myself, everything
that hitherto had seemed to my mind incoherent,
became intelligible, brought itself into evidence, just
as a sentence which presents no meaning so long as
it remains broken up in letters scattered at random
upon         a      table,           expresses,                 if     these           letters          be
rearranged in the proper order, a thought which one
can never afterwards forget.


       I now understood, moreover, how, earlier in the
day, when I had seen him coming away from Mme.
de Villeparisis's, I had managed to arrive at the
conclusion that M. de Charlus looked like a woman:
he was one! He belonged to that race of beings, less
paradoxical than they appear, whose ideal is manly
simply because their temperament is feminine and
who in their life resemble in appearance only the
rest of men; there where each of us carries,
inscribed in those eyes through which he beholds
everything               in       the        universe,               a      human              outline
engraved on the surface of the pupil, for them it is


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that not of a nymph but of a youth. Race upon
which a curse weighs and which must live amid
falsehood and perjury, because it knows the world
to regard as a punishable and a scandalous, as an
inadmissible thing, its desire, that which constitutes
for every human creature the greatest happiness in
life; which must deny its God, since even Christians,
when at the bar of justice they appear and are
arraigned, must before Christ and in His Name
defend themselves, as from a calumny, from the
charge of what to them is life itself; sons without a
mother, to whom they are obliged to lie all her life
long and even in the hour when they close her dying
eyes; friends without friendships, despite all those
which their charm, frequently recognised, inspires
and their hearts, often generous, would gladly feel;
but can we describe as friendship those relations
which flourish only by virtue of a lie and from which
the first outburst of confidence and sincerity in
which they might be tempted to indulge would make
them be expelled with disgust, unless they are
dealing           with         an        impartial,               that         is      to      say         a


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sympathetic mind, which however in that case,
misled with regard to them by a conventional
psychology, will suppose to spring from the vice
confessed the very affection that is most alien to it,
just as certain judges assume and are more inclined
to pardon murder in inverts and treason in Jews for
reasons            derived              from           original            sin        and         racial
predestination. And lastly--according at least to the
first-» theory which I sketched in outline at the time
and        which            we        shall          see        subjected                to       some
modification in the sequel, a theory by which this
would have angered them above all things, had not
the paradox been hidden from their eyes by the
very illusion that made them see and live--lovers
from whom is always precluded the possibility of
that love the hope of which gives them the strength
to endure so many risks and so much loneliness,
since they fall in love with precisely that type of
man who has nothing feminine about him, who is
not an invert and consequently cannot love them in
return; with the result that their desire would be for
ever insatiable did not their money procure for them


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real men, and their imagination end by making
them take for real men the inverts to whom they
had           prostituted                   themselves.                      Their             honour
precarious, their liberty provisional, lasting only until
the discovery of their crime; their position unstable,
like that of the poet who one day was feasted at
every table, applauded in every theatre in London,
and on the next was driven from every lodging,
unable to find a pillow upon which to lay his head,
turning the mill like Samson and saying like him:
"The two sexes shall die, each in a place apart!";
excluded even, save on the days of general disaster
when the majority rally round the victim as the Jews
rallied round Dreyfus, from the sympathy--at times
from the society--of their fellows, in whom they
inspire only disgust at seeing themselves as they
are, portrayed in a mirror which, ceasing to flatter
them, accentuates every blemish that they have
refused to observe in themselves, and makes them
understand that what they have been calling their
love (a thing to which, playing upon the word, they
have         by       association                 annexed               all       that         poetry,


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painting, music, chivalry, asceticism have contrived
to add to love) springs not from an ideal of beauty
which they have chosen but from an incurable
malady; like the Jews again (save some who will
associate only with others of their race and have
always on their lips ritual words and consecrated
pleasantries), shunning one another, seeking out
those who are most directly their opposite, who do
not desire their company, pardoning their rebuffs,
moved to ecstasy by their condescension; but also
brought into the company of their own kind by the
ostracism that strikes them, the opprobrium under
which they have fallen, having finally been invested,
by a persecution similar to that of Israel, with the
physical            and         moral            characteristics                   of       a      race,
sometimes beautiful, often hideous, finding (in spite
of all the mockery with which he who, more closely
blended with, better assimilated to the opposing
race, is relatively, in appearance, the least inverted,
heaps upon him who has remained more so) a relief
in frequenting the society of their kind, and even
some corroboration of their own life, so much so


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that, while steadfastly denying that they are a race
(the name of which is the vilest of insults), those
who succeed in concealing the fact that they belong
to it they readily unmask, with a view less to
injuring them, though they have no scruple about
that, than to excusing themselves; and, going in
search (as a doctor seeks cases of appendicitis) of
cases of inversion in history, taking pleasure in
recalling that Socrates was one of themselves, as
the Israelites claim that Jesus was one of them,
without reflecting that there were no abnormals
when          homosexuality                      was          the        norm,            no        anti-
Christians before Christ, that the disgrace alone
makes the crime because it has allowed to survive
only        those           who          remained                 obdurate               to       every
warning, to every example, to every punishment, by
virtue of an innate disposition so peculiar that it is
more repugnant to other men (even though it may
be accompanied by exalted moral qualities) than
certain other vices which exclude those qualities,
such as theft, cruelty, breach of faith, vices better
understood and so more readily excused by the


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generality of men; forming a freemasonry far more
extensive, more powerful and less suspected than
that of the Lodges, for it rests upon an identity of
tastes,          needs,             habits,           dangers,               apprenticeship,
knowledge, traffic, glossary, and one in which the
members themselves, who intend not to know one
another, recognise one another immediately by
natural or conventional, involuntary or deliberate
signs which indicate one of his congeners to the
beggar in the street, in the great nobleman whose
carriage door he is shutting, to the father in the
suitor for his daughter's hand, to him who has
sought healing, absolution, defence, in the doctor,
the priest, the barrister to whom he has had
recourse; all of them obliged to protect their own
secret but having their part in a secret shared with
the others, which the rest of humanity does not
suspect and which means that to them the most
wildly improbable tales of adventure seem true, for
in this romantic, anachronistic life the ambassador is
a bosom friend of the felon, the prince, with a
certain independence of action with which his


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aristocratic breeding has furnished him, and which
the trembling little cit would lack, on leaving the
duchess's party goes off to confer in private with the
hooligan; a reprobate part of the human whole, but
an important part, suspected where it does not
exist, flaunting itself, insolent and unpunished,
where its existence is never guessed; numbering its
adherents everywhere, among the people, in the
army, in the church, in the prison, on the throne;
living, in short, at least to a great extent, in a
playful and perilous intimacy with the men of the
other race, provoking them, playing with them by
speaking of its vice as of something alien to it; a
game that is rendered easy by the blindness or
duplicity of the others, a game that may be kept up
for years until the day of the scandal, on which
these lion-tamers are devoured; until then, obliged
to make a secret of their lives, to turn away their
eyes from the things on which they would naturally
fasten them, to fasten them upon those from which
they would naturally turn away, to change the
gender of many of the words in their vocabulary, a


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social constraint, slight in comparison with the
inward constraint which their vice, or what is
improperly so called, imposes upon them with
regard not so much now to others as to themselves,
and in such a way that to themselves it does not
appear a vice.                        But certain among them, more
practical, busier men who have not the time to go
and drive their own bargains, or to dispense with
the simplification of life and that saving of time
which may result from cooperation, have formed
two societies of which the second is composed
exclusively of persons similar to themselves.


       This is noticeable in those who are poor and
have come up from the country, without friends,
with nothing but their ambition to be some day a
celebrated doctor or barrister, with a mind still
barren           of      opinions,              a      person             unadorned                  with
manners, which they intend, as soon as possible, to
decorate, just as they would buy furniture for their
little attic in the Latin quarter, copying whatever
they had observed in those who had already


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'arrived' in the useful and serious profession in
which they also intend to establish themselves and
to become famous; in these their special taste,
unconsciously inherited like a weakness for drawing,
for music, a weakness of vision, is perhaps the only
living and despotic originality--which on certain
evenings compels them to miss some meeting,
advantageous to their career, with people whose
ways, in other respect, of                                         speaking,               thinking,
dressing, parting their hair, they have adopted. In
their quarter, where otherwise they mix only with
their brother students, their teachers or some
fellow-provincial who has succeeded and can help
them on, they have speedily discovered other young
men whom the same peculiar taste attracts to them,
as in a small town one sees an intimacy grow up
between the assistant master and the lawyer, who
are both interested in chamber music or mediaeval
ivories; applying to the object of their distraction
the same utilitarian instinct, the same professional
spirit which guides them in their career, they meet
these young men at gatherings to which no profane


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outsider is admitted any more than to those that
bring         together               collectors                of       old         snuff-boxes,
Japanese prints or rare flowers, and at which, what
with        the        pleasure              of      gaining             information,                  the
practical value of making exchanges and the fear of
competition, there prevail simultaneously, as in a
saleroom of postage stamps, the close cooperation
of the specialists and the fierce rivalries of the
collectors. No one moreover in the café where they
have their table knows what the gathering is,
whether it is that of an angling club, of an editorial
staff, or of the 'Sons of the Indre,' so correct is their
attire, so cold and reserved their manner, so
modestly do they refrain from anything more than
the most covert glances at the young men of
fashion, the young 'lions' who, a few feet away, are
making a great clamour about their mistresses, and
among whom those who are admiring them without
venturing to raise their eyes will learn only twenty
years later, when they themselves are on the eve of
admission to the Academy, and the others are
middle-aged gentlemen in club windows, that the


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most seductive among them, now a stout and
grizzled Charlus, was in reality akin to themselves,
but differently, in another world, beneath other
external              symbols,                 with           foreign              labels,             the
strangeness of which led them into error. But these
groups are at varying stages of advancement; and,
just as the 'Union of the Left' differs from the
'Socialist            Federation'                 or        some            Mendelssohnian
musical club from the Schola Cantorum, on certain
evenings, at another table, there are extremists who
allow a bracelet to slip down from beneath a cuff,
sometimes a necklace to gleam in the gap of a
collar, who by their persistent stares, their cooings,
their laughter, their mutual caresses, oblige a band
of students to depart in hot haste, and are served
with a civility beneath which indignation boils by a
waiter who, as on the evenings when he has to
serve           Dreyfusards,                     would              find          pleasure                in
summoning the police did he not find profit in
pocketing their gratuities.


       It is with these professional organisations that


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the mind contrasts the taste of the solitaries, and in
one        respect              without             straining               the         points            of
difference, since it is doing no more than copy the
solitaries themselves who imagine that nothing
differs more widely from organised vice than what
appears to them to be a misunderstood love, but
with some strain nevertheless, for these different
classes           correspond,                   no        less         than          to       diverse
physiological                types,           to       successive                stages            in      a
pathological or merely social evolution. And it is, in
fact, very rarely that, one day or another, it is not in
some such organisation that the solitaries come to
merge             themselves,                     sometimes                    from             simple
weariness, or for convenience (just as the people
who have been most strongly opposed to such
innovations end by having the telephone installed,
inviting the Iénas to their parties, or dealing with
Potin). They meet there, for that matter, with none
too friendly a reception as a rule, for, in their
relatively pure lives, their want of experience, the
saturation in dreams to which they have been
reduced, have branded more strongly upon them


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those         special            marks            of       effeminacy                 which            the
professionals have sought to efface. And it must be
admitted that, among certain of these newcomers,
the woman is not only inwardly united to the man
but hideously visible, agitated as one sees them by
a hysterical spasm, by a shrill laugh which convulses
their knees and hands, looking no more like the
common run of men than those monkeys with
melancholy, shadowed eyes and prehensile feet who
dress up in dinner-jackets and black bow ties; so
that these new recruits are judged by others, less
chaste for all that themselves, to be compromising
associates, and their admission is hedged with
difficulties; they are accepted, nevertheless, and
they benefit then by those facilities by which
commerce, great undertakings have transformed
the lives of individuals, and have brought within
their reach commodities hitherto too costly to
acquire           and         indeed            hard          to       find,         which           now
submerge them beneath the plethora of what by
themselves they had never succeeded in discovering
amid the densest crowds. But, even with these


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innumerable outlets, the burden of social constraint
is still too heavy for some, recruited principally
among those who have not made a practice of self-
control, and who still take to be rarer than it
actually is their way of love. Let us leave out of
consideration for the moment those who, the
exceptional character of their inclinations making
them regard themselves as superior to the other
sex, look down upon women, make homosexuality
the privilege of great genius and of glorious epochs
of history, and, when they seek to communicate
their taste to others, approach not so much those
who seem to them to be predisposed towards it (as
the morphino-maniac does with his morphia) as
those who seem to them to be worthy of it, from
apostolic zeal, just as others preach Zionism,
conscientious objection to military service, Saint-
Simonism, vegetarianism or anarchy. Here is one
who, should we intrude upon him in the morning,
still in bed, will present to our gaze an admirable
female head, so general is its expression and typical
of the sex as a whole; his very hair affirms this, so


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feminine is its ripple; unbrushed, it falls so naturally
in long curls over the cheek that one marvels how
the young woman, the girl, the Galatea barely
awakened to life, in the unconscious mass of this
male body in which she is imprisoned, has contrived
so ingeniously by herself, without instruction from
anyone, to make use of the narrowest apertures in
her prison wall to find what was necessary to her
existence. No doubt the young man who sports this
delicious head does not say: "I am a woman." Even
if--for any of the countless possible reasons--he
lives with a woman, he can deny to her that he is
himself one, can swear to her that he has never had
intercourse with men. But let her look at him as we
have just revealed him, lying back in bed, in
pyjamas, his arms bare, his throat and neck bare
also beneath the darkness of his hair. The pyjama
jacket becomes a woman's shift, the head that of a
pretty Spanish girl. The mistress is astounded by
these confidences offered to her gaze, truer than
any spoken confidence could be, or indeed any
action, which his actions, indeed, if they have not


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already done so, cannot fail later on to confirm, for
every creature follows the line of his own pleasure,
and if this creature is not too vicious he will seek it
in a sex complementary to his own. And for the
invert vice begins, not when he forms relations (for
there are all sorts of reasons that may enjoin
these), but when he takes his pleasure with women.
The young man whom we have been attempting to
portray was so evidently a woman that the women
who looked upon him with longing were doomed
(failing a special taste on their part) to the same
disappointment as those who in Shakespeare's
comedies are taken in by a girl in disguise who
passes as a youth. The deception is mutual, the
invert is himself aware of it, he guesses the
disillusionment which, once the mask is removed,
the woman will experience, and feels to what an
extent this mistake as to sex is a source of poetical
imaginings.                 Besides,              even            from           his        exacting
mistress, in vain does he keep back the admission
(if she, that is to say, be not herself a denizen of
Gomorrah): "I am a woman!" when all the time with


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what stratagems, what agility, what obstinacy as of
a climbing plant the unconscious but visible woman
in him seeks the masculine organ. We have only to
look at that head of curling hair on the white pillow
to understand that if, in the evening, this young
man slips through his guardians' fingers, in spite of
anything that they, or he himself can do to restrain
him, it will not be to go in pursuit of women. His
mistress may chastise him, may lock him up; next
day, the man-woman will have found some way of
attaching himself to a man, as the convolvulus
throws out its tendrils wherever it finds a convenient
post or rake. Why, when we admire in the face of
this person a delicacy that touches our hearts, a
gracefulness, a spontaneous affability such as men
do not possess, should we be dismayed to learn that
this young                 man           runs after                 boxers?             They           are
different aspects of an identical reality. And indeed,
what repels us is the most touching thing of all,
more touching than any refinement of delicacy, for it
represents an admirable though unconscious effort
on the part of nature: the recognition of his sex by


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itself, in spite of the sexual deception, becomes
apparent, the uncon-fessed attempt to escape from
itself towards what an initial error on the part of
society has segregated from it. Some, those no
doubt who have been most timid in childhood, are
scarcely concerned with the material kind of the
pleasure they receive, provided that they can
associate it with a masculine face. Whereas others,
whose            sensuality                is       doubtless                 more            violent,
imperiously restrict their material pleasure within
certain definite limitations. These live perhaps less
exclusively beneath the sway of Saturn's outrider,
since for them women are not entirely barred, as for
the former sort, in whose eyes women would have
no existence apart from conversation, flirtation,
loves not of the heart but of the head. But the
second sort seek out those women who love other
women; who can procure for them a young man,
enhance the pleasure which they feel on finding
themselves in his company; better still, they can, in
the same fashion, enjoy with such women the same
pleasure as with a man. Whence it arises that


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jealousy is kindled in those who love the first sort
only by the pleasure which they may be enjoying
with a man, which alone seems to their lovers a
betrayal, since these do not participate in the love of
women, have practised it only as a habit, and, so as
to reserve for themselves the possibility of eventual
marriage, representing to themselves so little the
pleasure that it is capable of giving that they cannot
be distressed by the thought that he whom they
love is enjoying that pleasure; whereas the other
sort often inspire jealousy by their love-affairs with
women. For, in the relations which they have with
her, they play, for the woman who loves her own
sex, the part of another woman, and she offers
them at the same time more or less what they find
in other men, so that the jealous friend suffers from
the feeling that he whom he loves is riveted to her
who is to him almost a man, and at the same time
feels his beloved almost escape him because, to
these women, he is something which the lover
himself cannot conceive, a sort of woman. We need
not pause here to consider those young fools who


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by a sort of arrested development, to tease their
friends or to shock their families, proceed with a
kind of frenzy to choose clothes that resemble
women's dress, to redden their lips and blacken
their eyelashes; we may leave them out of account,
for they are those whom we shall find later on,
when they have suffered the all too cruel penalty of
their affectation, spending what remains of their
lifetime in vain attempts to repair by a sternly
protestant demeanour the wrong that they did to
themselves when they were carried away by the
same demon that urges young women of the
Faubourg Saint-Germain to live in a scandalous
fashion, to set every convention at defiance, to scoff
at the entreaties of their relatives, until the day
when they set themselves with perseverance but
without success to reascend the slope down which it
had seemed to them that it would be so amusing to
glide, down which they had found it so amusing, or
rather had not been able to stop themselves from
gliding. Finally, let us leave to a later volume the
men who have sealed a pact with Gomorrah. We


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shall deal with them when M. de Charlus comes to
know them. Let us leave out for the present all
those, of one sort or another, who will appear each
in his turn, and, to conclude this first sketch of the
subject, let us say a word only of those whom we
began to mention just now, the solitary class.
Supposing their vice to be more exceptional than it
is, they have retired into solitude from the day on
which they discovered it, after having carried it
within themselves for a long time without knowing
it, for a longer time only than certain other men. For
no one can tell at first that he is an invert or a poet
or a snob or a scoundrel. The boy who has been
reading erotic poetry or looking at indecent pictures,
if he then presses his body against a schoolfellow's,
imagines himself only to be communing with him in
an identical desire for a woman.                                            How should he
suppose that he is not like everybody else when he
recognises the substance of what he feels on
reading Mme. de Lafayette, Racine, Baudelaire,
Walter Scott, at a time when he is still too little
capable of observing himself to take into account


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what he has added from his own store to the
picture, and that if the sentiment be the same the
object differs, that what he desires is Rob Roy, and
not Diana Vernon? With many, by a defensive
prudence on the part of the instinct that precedes
the clearer vision of the intellect, the mirror and
walls of their bedroom vanish beneath a cloud of
coloured prints of actresses; they compose poetry
such as:


           I love but Chloe in the world,                                          For Chloe is
divine;           Her golden hair is sweetly curled,                                          For her
my heart doth pine.


       Must we on that account attribute to the
opening phase of such lives a taste which we shall
never find in them later on, like those flaxen ringlets
on the heads of children which are destined to
change to the darkest brown? Who can tell whether
the photographs of women are not a first sign of
hypocrisy, a first sign also of horror at other inverts?
But the solitary kind are precisely those to whom


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hypocrisy is painful. Possibly even the example of
the Jews, of a different type of colony, is not strong
enough to account for the frail hold that their
upbringing has upon them, or for the artfulness with
which they find their way back (perhaps not to
anything so sheerly terrible as the suicide to which
maniacs, whatever precautions one may take with
them, return, and, pulled out of the river into which
they have flung themselves, take poison, procure
revolvers, and so forth; but) to a life of which the
men of the other race not only do not understand,
cannot imagine, abominate the essential pleasures
but would be filled with horror by the thought of its
frequent danger and everlasting shame. Perhaps, to
form a picture of these, we ought to think, if not of
the wild animals that never become domesticated,
of the lion-cubs said to be tame but lions still at
heart, then at least of the Negroes whom the
comfortable existence of the white man renders
desperately unhappy and who prefer the risks of a
life of savagery and its incomprehensible joys. When
the day has dawned on which they have discovered


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themselves to be incapable at once of lying to
others and of lying to themselves, they go away to
live in the country, shunning the society of their own
kind (whom they believe to be few in number) from
horror of the monstrosity or fear of the temptation,
and that of the rest of humanity from shame. Never
having arrived at true maturity, plunged in a
constant melancholy, now and again, some Sunday
evening when there is no moon, they go for a
solitary walk as far as a crossroads where, although
not a word has been said, there has come to meet
them one of their boyhood's friends who is living in
a house in the neighbourhood. And they begin again
the pastimes of long ago, on the grass, in the night,
neither uttering a word. During the week, they meet
in their respective houses, talk of no matter what,
without any allusion to what has occurred between
them, exactly as though they had done nothing and
were not to do anything again, save, in their
relations, a trace of coldness, of irony, of irritability
and rancour, at times of hatred. Then the neighbour
sets out on a strenuous expedition on horseback,


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and, on a mule, climbs mountain peaks, sleeps in
the snow; his friend, who identifies his own vice
with a weakness of temperament, the cabined and
timid life, realises that vice can no longer exist in his
friend now emancipated, so many thousands of feet
above sea-level. And, sure enough, the other takes
a wife. And yet the abandoned one is not cured (in
spite of the cases in which, as we shall see,
inversion is curable). He insists upon going down
himself every morning to the kitchen to receive the
milk from the hands of the dairyman's boy, and on
the evenings when desire is too strong for him will
go out of his way to set a drunkard on the right road
or to "adjust the dress" of a blind man. No doubt the
life of certain inverts appears at times to change,
their vice (as it is called) is no longer apparent in
their habits; but nothing is ever lost; a missing
jewel turns up again; when the quantity of a sick
man's urine decreases, it is because he is perspiring
more freely, but the excretion must invariably occur.
One day this homosexual hears of the death of a
young cousin, and from his inconsolable grief we


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learned that it was to this love, chaste possibly and
aimed rather at retaining esteem than at obtaining
possession, that his desires have passed by a sort of
virescence, as, in a budget, without any alteration in
the total, certain expenditure is carried under
another head. As is the case with invalids in whom a
sudden attack of urticaria makes their chronic
ailments temporarily disappear, this pure love for a
young          relative            seems,             in      the        invert,           to      have
momentarily replaced, by metastasis, habits that
will, one day or another, return to fill the place of
the vicarious, cured malady.


       Meanwhile the married neighbour of our recluse
has returned; before the beauty of the young bride
and the demonstrative affection of her, husband, on
the day when their friend is obliged to invite them to
dinner, he feels ashamed of the past. Already in an
interesting condition, she must return home early,
leaving her husband behind; he, when the time has
come for him to go home also, asks his host to
accompany him for part of the way; at first, no


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suspicion enters his mind, but at the crossroads he
finds himself thrown down on the grass, with not a
word said, by the mountaineer who is shortly to
become a father. And their meetings begin again,
and continue until the day when there comes to live
not far off a cousin of the young woman, with whom
her husband is now constantly to be seen. And he, if
the twice-abandoned friend calls in the evening and
endeavours                 to       approach                him,          is     furious,             and
repulses him with indignation that the other has not
had the tact to foresee the disgust which he must
henceforward inspire. Once, however, there appears
a stranger, sent to him by his faithless friend; but
being busy at the time, the abandoned one cannot
see him, and only afterwards learns with what
object his visitor came.


       Then the solitary languishes alone. He has no
other diversion than to go to the neighbouring
watering-place to ask for some information or other
from a certain railwayman there. But the latter has
obtained promotion, has been transferred to the


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other end of the country; the solitary will no longer
be able to go and ask him the times of the trains or
the price of a first class ticket, and, before retiring
to dream, Griselda-like, in his tower, loiters upon
the beach, a strange Andromeda whom no Argonaut
will come to free, a sterile Medusa that must perish
upon the sand, or else he stands idly, until his train
starts, upon the platform, casting over the crowd of
passengers                a      gaze          that         will       seem            indifferent,
contemptuous or distracted to those of another
race, but, like the luminous glow with which certain
insects bedeck themselves in order to attract others
of their species, or like the nectar which certain
flowers offer to attract the insects that will fertilise
them, would not deceive the almost undiscoverable
sharer of a pleasure too singular, too hard to place,
which is offered him, the colleague with whom our
specialist            could           converse               in      the         half-forgotten
tongue; in which last, at the most, some seedy
loafer upon the platform will put up a show of
interest, but for pecuniary gam alone, like those
people who, at the Collège de France, in the room in


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which the Professor of Sanskrit lectures without an
audience, attend his course but only because the
room itself is heated. Medusa! Orchid! When I
followed my instinct only, the medusa used to revolt
me at Balbec; but if I had the eyes to regard it, like
Michelet, from the standpoint of natural history, and
aesthetic, I saw an exquisite wheel of azure flame.
Are they not, with the transparent velvet of their
petals, as it were the mauve orchids of the sea? Like
so many creatures of the animal and vegetable
kingdoms, like the plant which would produce vanilla
but, because in its structure the male organ is
divided by a partition from the female, remains
sterile unless the humming-birds or certain tiny
bees convey the pollen from one to the other, or
man fertilises them by artificial means, M. de
Charlus (and here the word fertilise must be
understood in a moral sense, since in the physical
sense the union of male with male is and must be
sterile, but it is no small matter that a person may
encounter the sole pleasure which he is capable of
enjoying, and that every 'creature here below' can


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impart to some other 'his music, or his fragrance or
his flame'), M. de Charlus was one of those men
who may be called exceptional, because however
many they may be, the satisfaction, so easy in
others, of their sexual requirements depends upon
the coincidence of too many conditions, and of
conditions too difficult to ensure. For men like M. de
Charlus (leaving out of account the compromises
which will appear in the course of this story and
which the reader may already have foreseen,
enforced by the need of pleasure which resigns itself
to partial acceptations), mutual love, apart from the
difficulties, so great as to be almost insurmountable,
which it meets in the ordinary man, adds to these
others so exceptional that what is always extremely
rare for everyone becomes in their case well nigh
impossible, and, if there should befall them an
encounter which is really fortunate, or which nature
makes appear so to them, their good fortune, far
more than that of the normal lover, has about it
something                 extraordinary,                      selective,               profoundly
necessary. The feud of the Capulets and Montagues


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was as nothing compared with the obstacles of
every sort which must have been surmounted, the
special eliminations which nature has had to submit
to the hazards, already far from common, which
result in love, before a retired tailor, who was
intending to set off soberly for his office, can stand
quivering in ecstasy before a stoutish man of fifty;
this Romeo and this Juliet may believe with good
reason that their love is not the caprice of a moment
but        a      true          predestination,                      prepared                by        the
harmonies of their temperaments, and not only by
their own personal temperaments but by those of
their ancestors, by their most distant strains of
heredity, so much so that the fellow creature who is
conjoined with them has belonged to them from
before their birth, has attracted them by a force
comparable to that which governs the worlds on
which we passed our former lives. M. de Charlus
had distracted me from looking to see whether the
bee was bringing to the orchid the pollen it had so
long been waiting to receive, and had no chance of
receiving save by an accident so unlikely that one


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might call it a sort of miracle. But this was a miracle
also that I had just witnessed, almost of the same
order and no less marvellous.                                         As soon as I had
considered their meeting from this point of view,
everything about it seemed to me instinct with
beauty. The most extraordinary devices that nature
has invented to compel insects to ensure the
fertilisation               of        flowers               which             without               their
intervention could not be fertilised because the male
flower is too far away from the female--or when, if it
is the wind that must provide for the transportation
of the pollen, she makes that pollen so much more
simply detachable from the male, so much more
easily arrested in its flight by the female flower, by
eliminating the secretion of nectar which is no
longer of any use since there is no insect to be
attracted, and, that the flower may be kept free for
the pollen which it needs, which can fructify only in
itself, makes it secrete a liquid which renders it
immune to all other pollens--seemed to me no more
marvellous than the existence of the subvariety of
inverts destined to guarantee the pleasures of love


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to the invert who is growing old: men who are
attracted             not         by        all       other           men,            but--by              a
phenomenon                     of       correspondence                        and          harmony
similar to those that precede the fertilisation of
heterostyle trimorphous flowers like the lythrum
salicoria--only                 by       men           considerably                  older          than
themselves. Of this subvariety Jupien had just
furnished me with an example less striking however
than certain others, which every collector of a
human herbary, every moral botanist can observe in
spite of their rarity, and which will present to the
eye a delicate youth who is waiting for the advances
of       a       robust             and           paunchy                quinquagenarian,
remaining as indifferent to those of other young
men as the hermaphrodite flowers of the short-
styled primula veris so long as they are fertilised
only by other primu-lae veris of short style also,
whereas they welcome with joy the pollen of the
primula veris with the long styles. As for M. de
Charlus's              part         in       the         transaction,                  I      noticed
afterwards that there were for him various kinds of
conjunction, some of which, by their multiplicity,


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their almost invisible speed and above all the
absence of contact between the two actors, recalled
still more forcibly those flowers that in a garden are
fertilised by the pollen of a neighbouring flower
which they may never touch. There were in fact
certain persons whom it was sufficient for him to
make come to his house, hold for an hour or two
under the domination of his talk, for his desire,
quickened               by        some            earlier           encounter,                  to      be
assuaged. By a simple use of words the conjunction
was effected, as simply as it can be among the
infusoria.             Sometimes, as had doubtless been the
case with me on the evening on which I had been
summoned by him after the Guermantes dinner-
party, the relief was effected by a violent ejaculation
which the Baron made in his visitor's face, just as
certain flowers, furnished with a hidden spring,
sprinkle from within the unconsciously collaborating
and        disconcerted                  insect.           M.        de       Charlus,               from
vanquished turning victor, feeling himself purged of
his uneasiness and calmed, would send away the
visitor who had at once ceased to appear to him


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desirable.             Finally,            inasmuch                as       inversion              itself
springs from the fact that the invert is too closely
akin to woman to be capable of having any effective
relations with her, it comes under a higher law
which ordains that so many hermaphrodite flowers
shall remain unfertile, that is to say the law of the
sterility of autofecundation. It is true that inverts, in
their search for a male person, will often be found to
put       up        with         other           inverts            as        effeminate                 as
themselves. But it is enough that they do not belong
to the female sex, of which they have in them an
embryo which they can put to no useful purpose,
such as we find in so many hermaphrodite flowers,
and even in certain hermaphrodite animals, such as
the snail, which cannot be fertilised by themselves,
but can by other hermaphrodites.                                             In this respect
the race of inverts, who eagerly connect themselves
with Oriental antiquity or the Golden Age in Greece,
might          be        traced            back          farther            still,       to       those
experimental epochs in which there existed neither
dioecious plants nor monosexual animals, to that
initial hermaph-roditism of which certain rudiments


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of male organs in the anatomy of the woman and of
female organs in that of the man seem still to
preserve             the         trace.           I     found            the        pantomime,
incomprehensible to me at first, of Jupien and M. de
Charlus as curious as those seductive gestures
addressed, Darwin tells us, to insects not only by
the flowers called composite which erect the florets
of their capitals so as to be seen from a greater
distance, such as a certain heterostyle which turns
back its stamens and bends them to open the way
for the insect, or offers him an ablution, or, to take
an immediate instance, the nectar-fragrance and
vivid hue of the corollae that were at that moment
attracting insects to our courtyard. From this day
onwards M. de Charlus was to alter the time of his
visits to Mme. de Villeparisis, not that he could not
see Jupien elsewhere and with greater convenience,
but because to him just as much as to me the
afternoon sunshine and the blossoming plant were,
no doubt, linked together in memory. Apart from
this, he did not confine himself to recommending
the Jupiens to Mme. de Villeparisis, to the Duchesse


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de Guermantes, to a whole brilliant list of patrons,
who were all the more assiduous in their attentions
to the young seamstress when they saw that the
few ladies who had held out, or had merely delayed
their submission, were subjected to the direst
reprisals by the Baron, whether in order that they
might serve as an example, or because they had
aroused his wrath and had stood out against his
attempted domination; he made Jupien's position
more and more lucrative, until he definitely engaged
him as his secretary and established him in the
state in which we shall see him later on. "Ah, now!
There is a happy man, if you like, that Jupien," said
Françoise, who had a tendency to minimise or
exaggerate people's generosity according as it was
bestowed on herself or on others. Not that, in this
instance, she had any need to exaggerate, nor for
that       matter            did        she        feel        any         jealousy,              being
genuinely fond of Jupien. "Oh, he's such a good
man, the Baron," she went on, "such a well-
behaved, religious, proper sort of man. If I had a
daughter to marry and was one of the rich myself, I


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would give her to the Baron with my eyes shut."
"But, Françoise," my mother observed gently, "she'd
be well supplied with husbands, that daughter of
yours. Don't forget you've already promised her to
Jupien."            "Ah!           Lordy,           now,"            replied            Françoise,
"there's another of them that would make a woman
happy. It doesn't matter whether you're rich or
poor, it makes no difference to your nature. The
Baron and Jupien, they're just the same sort of
person."


       However, I greatly exaggerated at the time, on
the strength of this first revelation, the elective
character of so carefully selected a combination.
Admittedly, every man of the kind of M. de Charlus
is an extraordinary creature since, if he does not
make concessions to the possibilities of life, he
seeks out essentially the love of a man of the other
race, that is to say a man who is a lover of women
(and incapable consequently of loving him); in
contradiction                 of      what           I     had         imagined                in      the
courtyard, where I had seen Jupien turning towards


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M. de Charlus like the orchid making overtures to
the bee, these exceptional creatures whom we
commiserate are a vast crowd, as we shall see in
the course of this work, for a reason which will be
disclosed only at the end of it, and commiserate
themselves for being too many rather than too few.
For the two angels who were posted at the gates of
Sodom to learn whether its inhabitants (according to
Genesis) had indeed done all the things the report
of which had ascended to the Eternal Throne must
have been, and of this one can only be glad,
exceedingly ill chosen by the Lord, Who ought not to
have entrusted the task to any but a Sodomite.
Such an one the excuses: "Father of six children--I
keep two mistresses," and so forth could never have
persuaded benevolently to lower his flaming sword
and to mitigate the punishment; he would have
answered: "Yes, and your wife lives in a torment of
jealousy.             But even when these women have not
been chosen by you from Gomorrah, you spend
your nights with a watcher of flocks upon Hebron."
And he would at once have made him retrace his


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steps to the city which the rain of fire and brimstone
was to destroy. On the contrary, they allowed to
escape all the shame-faced Sodomites, even if
these, on catching sight of a boy, turned their
heads, like Lot's wife, though without being on that
account changed like her into pillars of salt. With the
result that they engendered a numerous posterity
with whom                   this        gesture             has        continued                to      be
habitual, like that of the dissolute women who, while
apparently studying a row of shoes displayed in a
shop window, turn their heads to keep track of a
passing             student.               These             descendants                     of        the
Sodomites, so numerous that we may apply to them
that other verse of Genesis: "If a man can number
the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be
numbered,"                       have               established                       themselves
throughout the entire world; they have had access
to every profession and pass so easily into the most
exclusive clubs that, whenever a Sodomite fails to
secure election, the blackballs are, for the most
part, cast by other Sodomites, who are anxious to
penalise sodomy, having inherited the falsehood


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that enabled their ancestors to escape from the
accursed city. It is possible that they may return
there one day. Certainly they form in every land an
Oriental colony, cultured, musical, malicious, which
has       certain            charming                qualities             and         intolerable
defects.            We          shall          study            them            with          greater
thoroughness in the course of the following pages;
but I have thought it as well to utter here a
provisional warning against the lamentable error of
proposing (just as people have encouraged a Zionist
movement) to create a Sodomist movement and to
rebuild Sodom.                       For, no sooner had they arrived
there than the Sodomites would leave the town so
as not to have the appearance of belonging to it,
would take wives, keep mistresses in other cities
where they would find, incidentally, every diversion
that appealed to them. They would repair to Sodom
only on days of supreme necessity, when their own
town was empty, at those seasons when hunger
drives the wolf from the woods; in other words,
everything would go on very much as it does to-day
in London, Berlin, Rome, Petrograd or Paris.


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       Anyhow, on the day in question, before paying
my call on the Duchess, I did not look so far ahead,
and I was distressed to find that I had, by my
engrossment in                        the Jupien-Charlus                            conjunction,
missed perhaps an opportunity of witnessing the
fertilisation of the blossom by the bee.




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Chapter ONE


       M. de Charlus in Society.--A physician.--Typical
physiognomy                     of       Mme.             de        Vaugoubert.--Mme.
d'Arpajon, the Hubert Robert fountain and the
merriment of the Grand Duke Vladimir.--Mmes.
d'Amoncourt,                   de       Citri,        de       Saint-Euverte,                     etc.--
Curious conversation between Swann and the Prince
de Guermantes.--Albertine on the telephone.--My
social life in the interval before my second and final
visit to Balbec. Arrival at Balbec.


         As I was in no haste to arrive at this party at
the Guermantes', to which I was not certain that I
had been invited, I remained sauntering out of
doors; but the summer day seemed to be in no
greater haste than myself to stir. Albeit it was after
nine o'clock, it was still the light of day that on the
Place de la Concorde was giving the Luxor obelisk
the appearance of being made of pink nougat. Then
it diluted the tint and changed the surface to a

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metallic substance, so that the obelisk not only
became more precious but seemed to have grown
more slender and almost flexible. You imagined that
you might have twisted it in your fingers, had
perhaps already slightly distorted its outline. The
moon was now in the sky like a section of orange
delicately peeled although slightly bruised. But
presently she was to be fashioned of the most
enduring gold. Sheltering alone behind her, a poor
little star was to serve as sole companion to the
lonely          moon,             while           she,          keeping              her         friend
protected, but bolder and striding ahead, would
brandish like an irresistible weapon, like an Oriental
symbol, her broad and marvellous crescent of gold.


       Outside             the        mansion                of      the        Princesse               de
Guermantes, I met the Duc de Châtellerault; I no
longer remembered that half an hour earlier I had
still been persecuted by the fear--which, for that
matter, was speedily to grip me again--that I might
be entering the house uninvited. We grow uneasy,
and it is sometimes long after the hour of danger,


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which a subsequent distraction has made us forget,
that we remember our uneasiness. I greeted the
young Duke and made my way into the house. But
here I must first of all record a trifling incident,
which will enable us to understand something that
was presently to occur.


       There was one person who, on that evening as
on the previous evenings, had been thinking a great
deal        about           the        Duc          de       Châtellerault,                   without
however suspecting who he was: this was the usher
(styled at that time the aboyeur) of Mme. de
Guermantes. M. de Châtellerault, so far from being
one of the Princess's intimate friends, albeit he was
one of her cousins, had been invited to her house
for the first time. His parents, who had not been on
speaking terms with her for the last ten years, had
been reconciled to her within the last fortnight, and,
obliged to be out of Paris that evening, had
requested their son to fill their place. Now, a few
days earlier, the Princess's usher had met in the
Champs-Elysées a young man whom he had found


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charming but whose identity he had been unable to
establish.             Not that the young man had not shewn
himself as obliging as he had been generous. All the
favours that the usher had supposed that he would
have to bestow upon so young a gentleman, he had
on the contrary received.                                  But M. de Châtellerault
was as reticent as he was rash; he was all the more
determined not to disclose his incognito since he did
not know with what sort of person he was dealing;
his fear would have been far greater, although quite
unfounded, if he had known. He had confined
himself to posing as an Englishman, and to all the
passionate questions with which he was plied by the
usher, desirous to meet again a person to whom he
was indebted for so much pleasure and so ample a
gratuity, the Duke had merely replied, from one end
of the Avenue Gabriel to the other: "I do not speak
French."


       Albeit, in spite of everything--remembering his
cousin Gilbert's maternal ancestry--the Duc de
Guermantes pretended to find a touch of Courvoisier


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in       the         drawing-room                       of        the          Princesse                de
Guermantes-Bavière, the general estimate of that
lady's initiative spirit and intellectual superiority was
based upon an innovation that was to be found
nowhere else in her set.                                     After dinner, however
important the party that was to follow, the chairs, at
the Princesse de Guermantes's, were arranged in
such a way as to form little groups, in which people
might have to turn their backs upon one another.
The Princess then displayed her social sense by
going to sit down, as though by preference, in one
of these. Not that she was afraid to pick out and
attract to herself a member of another group. If, for
instance, she had remarked to M. Détaille, who
naturally agreed with her, on the beauty of Mme. de
Villemur's neck, of which that lady's position in
another group made her present a back view, the
Princess            did       not         hesitate             to      raise          her        voice:
"Madame                de        Villemur,               M.         Détaille,             with          his
wonderful painter's eye, has just been admiring
your neck." Mme. de Villemur interpreted this as a
direct invitation to join in the conversation; with the


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agility of a practiced horsewoman, she made her
chair rotate slowly through three quadrants of a
circle, and, without in the least disturbing her
neighbours, came to rest almost facing the Princess.
"You don't know M. Détaille?" exclaimed their
hostess, for whom her guest's nimble and modest
tergiversation was not sufficient. "I do not know
him, but I know his work," replied Mme. de
Villemur, with a respectful, engaging air, and a
promptitude which many of the onlookers envied
her, addressing the while to the celebrated painter
whom this invocation had not been sufficient to
introduce              to        her         in        a      formal             manner,                an
imperceptible bow. "Come, Monsieur Détaille," said
the Princess, "let me introduce you to Mme. de
Villemur." That lady thereupon shewed as great
ingenuity in making room for the creator of the
Dream as she had shewn a moment earlier in
wheeling round to face him. And the Princess drew
forward a chair for herself; she had indeed invoked
Mme. de Villemur only to have an excuse for
quitting the first group, in which she had spent the


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statutory ten minutes, and bestowing a similar
allowance of her time upon the second. In three
quarters of an hour, all the groups had received a
visit       from          her,         which           seemed               to       have          been
determined                 in      each          instance              by        impulse              and
predilection, but had the paramount object of
making it apparent how naturally "a great lady
knows how to entertain." But now the guests for the
party were beginning to arrive, and the lady of the
house was seated not far from the door--erect and
proud in her semi-regal majesty, her eyes ablaze
with         their           own            incandescence--between                                    two
unattractive                     Royalties                   and             the             Spanish
Ambassadress.


       I stood waiting behind a number of guests who
had arrived before me. Facing me was the Princess,
whose beauty is probably not the only thing, where
there were so many beauties, that reminds me of
this party. But the face of my hostess was so
perfect; stamped like so beautiful a medal, that it
has retained a commemorative force in my mind.


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The Princess was in the habit of saying to her guests
when she met them a day or two before one of her
parties: "You will come, won't you?" as though she
felt a great desire to talk to them. But as, on the
contrary, she had nothing to talk to them about,
when they entered her presence she contented
herself, without rising, with breaking off for an
instant           her        vapid           conversation                    with         the         two
Royalties and the Ambassadress and thanking them
with: "How good of you to have come," not that she
thought that the guest had shewn his goodness by
coming, but to enhance her own; then, at once
dropping him back into the stream, she would add:
"You will find M. de Guermantes by the garden
door," so that the guest proceeded on his way and
ceased to bother her. To some indeed she said
nothing, contenting herself with shewing them her
admirable onyx eyes, as though they had come
merely to visit an exhibition of precious stones.


       The person immediately in front of me was the
Duc de Châtellerault.


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       Having to respond to all the smiles, all the
greetings waved to him from inside the drawing-
room, he had not noticed the usher. But from the
first moment the usher had recognised him. The
identity of this stranger, which he had so ardently
desired to learn, in another minute he would know.
When he asked his 'Englishman' of the other
evening what name he was to announce, the usher
was not merely stirred, he considered that he was
being indiscreet, indelicate. He felt that he was
about to reveal to the whole world (which would,
however, suspect nothing) a secret which it was
criminal of him to force like this and to proclaim in
public. Upon hearing the guest's reply: "Le duc de
Châtellerault," he felt such a burst of pride that he
remained for a moment speechless. The Duke
looked at him, recognised him, saw himself ruined,
while the servant, who had recovered his composure
and was sufficiently versed in heraldry to complete
for himself an appellation that was too modest,
shouted with a professional vehemence softened by


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an emotional tenderness: "Son Altesse Monseigneur
le duc de Châtellerault!" But it was now my turn to
be announced. Absorbed in contemplation of my
hostess, who had not yet seen me, I had not
thought of the function--terrible to me, although not
in the same sense as to M. de Châtellerault--of this
usher garbed in black like a headsman, surrounded
by a group of lackeys in the most cheerful livery,
lusty fellows ready to seize hold of an intruder and
cast him out of doors. The usher asked me my
name,           I     told        him         it     as       mechanically                    as       the
condemned man allows himself to be strapped to
the block. At once he lifted his head majestically
and, before I could beg him to announce me in a
lowered tone so as to spare my own feelings if I
were not invited and those of the Princesse de
Guermantes if                      I     were,           shouted              the        disturbing
syllables with a force capable of bringing down the
roof.


       The famous Huxley (whose grandson occupies
an unassailable position in the English literary world


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of to-day) relates that one of his patients dared not
continue to go into society because often, on the
actual chair that was pointed out to her with a
courteous gesture, she saw an old gentleman
already seated. She could be quite certain that
either          the        gesture              of       invitation               or       the         old
gentleman's presence was a hallucination, for her
hostess would not have offered her a chair that was
already occupied. And when Huxley, to cure her,
forced her to reappear in society, she felt a moment
of painful hesitation when she asked herself whether
the friendly sign that was being made to her was
the real thing, or, in obedience to a non-existent
vision, she was about to sit down in public upon the
knees of a gentleman in flesh and blood. Her brief
uncertainty was agonising. Less so perhaps than
mine. >From the moment at which I had taken in
the sound of my name, like the rumble that warns
us of a possible cataclysm, I was bound, to plead
my own good faith in either event, and as though I
were not tormented by any doubt, to advance
towards the Princess with a resolute air.


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       She caught sight of me when I was still a few
feet away and (to leave me in no doubt that I was
the victim of a conspiracy), instead of remaining
seated, as she had done for her other guests, rose
and came towards me. A moment later, I was able
to heave the sigh of relief of Huxley's patient, when,
having made up her mind to sit down on the chair,
she found it vacant and realised that it was the old
gentleman that was a hallucination.                                               The Princess
had just held out her hand to me with a smile. She
remained standing for some moments with the kind
of charm enshrined in the verse of Malherbe which
ends:


          "To do them honour all the angels rise."


       She apologised because the Duchess had not
yet come, as though I must be bored there without
her. In order to give me this greeting, she wheeled
round me, holding me by the hand, in a graceful
revolution by the whirl of which I felt myself carried


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off my feet. I almost expected that she would next
offer me, like the leader of a cotillon, an ivory-
headed cane or a watch-bracelet.                                                 She did not,
however, give me anything of the sort, and as
though, instead of dancing the boston, she had been
listening to a sacred quartet by Beethoven the
sublime            strains            of       which            she         was          afraid           of
interrupting, she cut short the conversation there
and then, or rather did not begin it, and, still radiant
at having seen me come in, merely informed me
where the Prince was to be found.


       I moved away from her and did not venture to
approach her again, feeling that she had absolutely
nothing to say to me and that, in her vast kindness,
this woman marvellously tall and handsome, noble
as were so many great ladies who stepped so
proudly upon the scaffold, could only, short of
offering me a draught of honeydew, repeat what she
had already said to me twice: "You will find the
Prince in the garden." Now, to go in search of the
Prince was to feel my doubts revive in a fresh form.


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       In any case I should have to find somebody to
introduce me. One could hear, above all the din of
conversation, the interminable chatter of M. de
Charlus, talking to H. E. the Duke of Sidonia, whose
acquaintance he had just made. Members of the
same profession find one another out, and so it is
with a common vice. M. de Charlus and M. de
Sidonia had each of them immediately detected the
other's vice, which was in both cases that of
soliloquising in society, to the extent of not being
able to stand any interruption.                                       Having decided at
once that, in the words of a famous sonnet, there
was 'no help,' they had made up their minds not to
be silent but each to go on talking without any
regard to what the other might say. This had
resulted            in      the         confused               babble             produced                in
Molière's comedies by a number of people saying
different things simultaneously. The Baron, with his
deafening voice, was moreover certain of keeping
the upper hand, of drowning the feeble voice of M.
de Sidonia; without however discouraging him, for,


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whenever M. de Charlus paused for a moment to
breathe, the interval was filled by the murmurs of
the       Grandee              of      Spain           who          had         imperturbably
continued his discourse. I could easily have asked
M. de Charlus to introduce me to the Prince de
Guermantes, but I feared (and with good reason)
that he might be cross with me. I had treated him in
the most ungrateful fashion by letting his offer pass
unheeded for the second time and by never giving
him a sign of my existence since the evening when
he had so affectionately escorted me home. And yet
I could not plead the excuse of having anticipated
the scene which I had just witnessed, that very
afternoon,               enacted              by        himself             and         Jupien.             I
suspected nothing of the sort. It is true that shortly
before this, when my parents reproached me with
my laziness and with not having taken the trouble to
write a line to M. de Charlus, I had violently
reproached them with wishing me to accept a
degrading proposal. But anger alone, and the desire
to hit upon the expression that would be most
offensive to them had dictated this mendacious


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retort. In reality, I had imagined nothing sensual,
nothing sentimental even, underlying the Baron's
offers. I had said this to my parents with entire
irresponsibility. But sometimes the future is latent
in us without our knowledge, and our words which
we suppose to be false forecast an imminent reality.


       M. de Charlus would doubtless have forgiven me
my want of gratitude. But what made him furious
was that my presence this evening at the Princesse
de Guermantes's, as for some time past at her
cousin's, seemed to be a defiance of his solemn
declaration: "There is no admission to those houses
save through me." A grave fault, a crime that was
perhaps             inexpiable,                 I      had          not         followed               the
conventional path. M. de Charlus knew well that the
thunderbolts which he hurled at those who did not
comply with his orders, or to whom he had taken a
dislike, were beginning to be regarded by many
people, however furiously he might brandish them,
as mere pasteboard, and had no longer the force to
banish anybody from anywhere. But he believed


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perhaps               that            his          diminished                    power,               still
considerable, remained intact in the eyes of novices
like myself. And so I did not consider it well advised
to ask a favour of him at a party at which the mere
fact of my presence seemed an ironical denial of his
pretentions.


       I was buttonholed at that moment by a man of a
distinctly common type, Professor E----. He had
been surprised to see me at the Guermantes'. I was
no less surprised to see him there, for nobody had
ever seen before or was ever to see again a person
of his sort at one of the Princess's parties. He had
just succeeded in curing the Prince, after the last
rites had been administered, of a septic pneumonia,
and the special gratitude that Mme. de Guermantes
felt towards him was the reason for her thus
departing from custom and inviting him to her
house. As he knew absolutely nobody in the rooms,
and could not wander about there indefinitely by
himself, like a minister of death, having recognised
me, he had discovered, for the first time in his life,


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that he had an infinite number of things to say to
me, which enabled him to assume an air of
composure, and this was one of the reasons for his
advancing upon me. There was also another. He
attached             great importance to his                                      never           being
mistaken in his diagnoses. Now his correspondence
was so numerous that he could not always bear in
mind, when he had seen a patient once only,
whether the disease had really followed the course
that he had traced for it. The reader may perhaps
remember                     that,               immediately                        after              my
grandmother's stroke, I had taken her to see him,
on the afternoon when he was having all his
decorations stitched to his coat. After so long an
interval, he no longer remembered the formal
announcement which had been sent to him at the
time. "Your grandmother is dead, isn't she?" he said
to me in a voice in which a semi-certainty calmed a
slight apprehension. "Ah! Indeed! Well, from the
moment I saw her my prognosis was extremely
grave, I remember it quite well."



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       It was thus that Professor E-----learned or
recalled the death of my grandmother, and (I must
say this to his credit, which is that of the medical
profession as a whole), without displaying, without
perhaps feeling, any satisfaction. The mistakes
made           by        doctors             are        innumerable.                     They           err
habitually on the side of optimism as to treatment,
of     pessimism                 as       to       the        outcome.                "Wine?             In
moderation, it can do you no harm, it is always a
tonic.... Sexual enjoyment? After all it is a natural
function. I allow you to use, but not to abuse it, you
understand. Excess in anything is wrong." At once,
what a temptation to the patient to renounce those
two life-givers, water and chastity. If, on the other
hand, he has any trouble with his heart, albumen,
and so forth, it never lasts for long. Disorders that
are grave but purely functional are at once ascribed
to an imaginary cancer.                                 It is useless to continue
visits which are powerless to eradicate an incurable
malady. Let the patient, left to his own devices,
thereupon subject himself to an implacable regime,
and in time recover, or merely survive, and the


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doctor, to whom he touches his hat in the Avenue
de l'Opéra, when he supposed him to have long
been lying in Père Lachaise, will interpret the
gesture as an act of insolent defiance. An innocent
stroll, taken beneath his nose and venerable beard,
would arouse no greater wrath in the Assize Judge
who, two years earlier, had sentenced the rascal,
now passing him with apparent impunity, to death.
Doctors (we do not here include them all, of course,
and make a mental reservation of certain admirable
exceptions), are in general more displeased, more
irritated by the quashing of their sentence than
pleased            by        its       execution.                 This         explains              why
Professor E----, despite the intellectual satisfaction
that he doubtless felt at finding that he had not
been mistaken, was able to speak to me only with
regret of the blow that had fallen upon us. He was in
no hurry to cut short the conversation, which kept
him in countenance and gave him a reason for
remaining.                 He spoke to me of the great heat
through which we were passing, but, albeit he was a
well-read man and capable of expressing himself in


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good French, said to me: "You are none the worse
for this hyperthermia?" The fact is that medicine has
made some slight advance in knowledge since
Molière's days, but none in its vocabulary. My
companion went on: "The great thing is to avoid the
sudations that are caused by weather like this,
especially in superheated rooms. You can remedy
them, when you go home and feel thirsty, by the
application of heat" (by which he apparently meant
hot drinks).


       Owing               to          the            circumstances                        of          my
grandmother's death, the subject interested me,
and I had recently read in a book by a great
specialist that perspiration was injurious to the
kidneys, by making moisture pass through the skin
when its proper outlet was elsewhere. I thought
with regret of those dog-days at the time of my
grandmother's death, and was inclined to blame
them for it. I did not mention this to Dr. E----, but
of his own accord he said to me: "The advantage of
this very hot weather in which perspiration is


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abundant is that the kidney is correspondingly
relieved." Medicine is not an exact science.


       Keeping me engaged in talk, Professor E-----
asked only not to be forced to leave me. But I had
just seen, making a series of sweeping bows to right
and left of the Princesse de Guermantes, stepping
back a pace first, the Marquis de Vaugoubert. M. de
Norpois had recently introduced me to him and I
hoped that I might find in him a person capable of
introducing me to our host. The proportions of this
work         do        not        permit            me         to       explain             here          in
consequence of what incidents in his youth M. de
Vaugoubert was one of the few men (possibly the
only man) in society who happened to be in what is
called at Sodom the "confidence" of M. de Charlus.
But, if our Minister to the Court of King Theodosius
had certain defects in common with the Baron, they
were only a very pale reflexion. It was merely in an
infinitely softened, sentimental and simple form that
he displayed those alternations of affection and
hatred through which the desire to attract, and then


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the        fear--equally                   imaginary--of                     being,            if      not
scorned, at any rate unmasked, made the Baron
pass. Made ridiculous by a chastity, a 'pla-tonicism'
(to which as a man of keen ambition he had, from
the moment of passing his examination, sacrificed
all pleasure), above all by his intellectual nullity,
these           alternations                    M.         de          Vaugoubert                     did,
nevertheless, display. But whereas in M. de Charlus
the immoderate praises were proclaimed with a
positive burst of eloquence, and seasoned with the
subtlest, the most mordant banter which marked a
man for ever, by M. de Vaugoubert, on the other
hand, the affection was expressed with the banality
of a man of the lowest intelligence, and of a public
official, the grievances (worked up generally into a
complete indictment, as with the Baron) by a
malevolence which, though relentless, was at the
same time spiritless, and was all the more startling
inasmuch as it was invariably a direct contradiction
of what the Minister had said six months earlier and
might soon perhaps be saying again: a regularity of
change which gave an almost astronomic poetry to


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the various phases of M. de Vaugoubert's life, albeit
apart from this nobody was ever less suggestive of a
star.


       The greeting that he gave me had nothing in
common with that which I should have received
from M. de Charlus. To this greeting M. de Vaugou-
bert, apart from the thousand mannerisms which he
supposed to be indicative of good breeding and
diplomacy, imparted a cavalier, brisk, smiling air,
which should make him seem on the one hand to be
rejoicing at being alive--at a time when he was
inwardly chewing the mortification of a career with
no prospect of advancement and with the threat of
enforced retirement--and on the other hand young,
virile and charming, when he could see and no
longer ventured to go and examine in the glass the
lines gathering upon a face which he would have
wished to keep full of seduction. Not that he would
have hoped for effective conquests, the mere
thought of which filled him with terror on account of
what people would say, scandals, blackmail. Having


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passed from an almost infantile corruption to an
absolute continence dating from the day on which
his thoughts had turned to the Quai d'Orsay and he
had begun to plan a great career for himself, he had
the air of a caged animal, casting in every direction
glances expressive of fear, appetite and stupidity.
This last was so dense that he did not reflect that
the street-arabs of his adolescence were boys no
longer, and when a newsvendor bawled in his face:
"La Presse!" even more than with longing he
shuddered with terror, imagining himself recognised
and denounced.


       But in default of the pleasures sacrificed to the
ingratitude of the Quai d'Orsay, M. de Vaugoubert--
and it was for this that he was anxious still to
attract--was liable to sudden stirrings of the heart.
Heaven knows with how many letters he would
overwhelm the Ministry (what personal ruses he
would employ, the drafts that he made upon the
credit of Mme. de Vaugoubert, who, on account of
her corpulence, her exalted birth, her masculine air,


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and above all the mediocrity of her husband, was
reputed to be endowed with eminent capacities and
to be herself for all practical purposes the Minister),
to introduce without any valid reason a young man
destitute of all merit into the staff of the Legation. It
is true that a few months, a few years later, the
insignificant attaché had only to appear, without the
least trace of any hostile intention, to have shown
signs of coldness towards his chief for the latter,
supposing himself scorned or betrayed, to devote
the same hysterical ardour to punishing him with
which he had showered favours upon him in the
past. He would move heaven and earth to have him
recalled and the Director of Political Affairs would
receive a letter daily: "Why don't you hurry up and
rid me of that lascar. Give him a dressing down in
his own interest. What he needs is a slice of humble
pie." The post of attaché at the court of King
Theodosius was on this account far from enjoyable.
But in all other respects, thanks to his perfect
common sense as a man of the world, M. de
Vaugoubert was one of the best representatives of


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the French Government abroad. When a man who
was reckoned a superior person, a Jacobin, with an
expert knowledge of all subjects, replaced him later
on, it was not long before war broke out between
France and the country over which that monarch
reigned.


       M. de Vaugoubert, like M. de Charlus, did not
care to be the first to give a greeting. Each of them
preferred to 'respond,' being constantly afraid of the
gossip which the person to whom otherwise they
might have offered their hand might have heard
about them since their last meeting. In my case, M.
de Vaugoubert had no need to ask himself this
question, I had as a matter of fact gone up of my
own accord to greet him, if only because of the
difference in our ages. He replied with an air of
wonder and delight, his eyes continuing to stray as
though there had been a patch of clover on either
side of me upon which he was forbidden to graze. I
felt that it would be more becoming to ask him to
introduce me                     to      Mme.            de       Vaugoubert,                   before


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effecting that introduction to the Prince which I
decided not to mention to him until afterwards. The
idea of making me acquainted with his wife seemed
to fill him with joy, for his own sake as well as for
hers, and he led me at a solemn pace towards the
Marquise. Arriving in front of her, and indicating me
with his hand and eyes, with every conceivable
mark of consideration, he nevertheless remained
silent and withdrew after a few moments, in a
sidelong fashion, leaving me alone with his wife.
She had at once given me her hand, but without
knowing to whom this token of friendship was
addressed, for I realised that M. de Vaugoubert had
forgotten my name, perhaps even had failed to
recognise me, and being unwilling, from politeness,
to confess his ignorance had made the introduction
consist in a mere dumb show. And so I was no
further          advanced;                  how          was         I      to      get         myself
introduced to my host by a woman who did not
know my name? Worse still, I found myself obliged
to remain for some moments talking to Mme. de
Vaugoubert. And this annoyed me for two reasons. I


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had no wish to remain all night at this party, for I
had arranged with Albertine (I had given her a box
for Phèdre) that she was to pay me a visit shortly
before midnight. Certainly I was not in the least in
love with her; I was yielding, in making her come
this evening, to a wholly sensual desire, albeit we
were at that torrid period of the year when
sensuality, evaporating, visits more readily the
organ of taste, seeks above all things coolness.
More than for the kiss of a girl, it thirsts for
orangeade, for a cold bath, or even to gaze at that
peeled and juicy moon which was quenching the
thirst of heaven. I counted however upon ridding
myself, in Albertine's company--which, moreover,
reminded me of the coolness of the sea--of the
regret that I should not fail to feel for many
charming faces (for it was a party quite as much for
girls as for married women that the Princess was
giving. On the other hand, the face of the imposing
Mme. de Vaugoubert, Bourbonian and morose, was
in no way attractive).



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       People            said         at       the         Ministry,              without             any
suggestion of malice, that in their household it was
the husband who wore the petticoats and the wife
the trousers. Now there was more truth in this
saying than was supposed.                                      Mme. de Vaugoubert
was really a man. Whether she had always been
one, or had grown to be as I saw her, matters little,
for in either case we have to deal with one of the
most touching miracles of nature which, in the latter
alternative especially, makes the human kingdom
resemble the kingdom of flowers. On the former
hypothesis--if the future Mme. de Vaugoubert had
always been so clumsily manlike--nature, by a
fiendish and beneficent ruse, bestows on the girl the
deceiving aspect of a man. And the youth who has
no love for women and is seeking to be cured greets
with joy this subterfuge of discovering a bride who
figures in his eyes as a market porter.                                                        In the
alternative case, if the woman has not originally
these masculine characteristics, she adopts them by
degrees,              to       please             her         husband,                and          even
unconsciously, by that sort of mimicry which makes


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certain flowers assume the appearance of the
insects which they seek to attract. Her regret that
she is not loved, that she is not a man, virilises her.
Indeed, quite apart from the case that we are now
considering, who has not remarked how often the
most normal couples end by resembling each other,
at times even by an exchange of qualities? A former
German Chancellor, Prince von Bùlow, married an
Italian. In the course of time, on the Pincio, it was
remarked how much the Teutonic husband had
absorbed of Italian delicacy, and the Italian Princess
of German coarseness. To turn aside to a point
without the province of the laws which we are now
tracing,            everyone                knows              an        eminent               French
diplomat, whose origin was at first suggested only
by his name, one of the most illustrious in the East.
As he matured, as he grew old, there was revealed
in     him        the        Oriental             whom             no       one         had         ever
suspected, and now when we see him we regret the
absence of the fez that would complete the picture.


       To revert to habits completely unknown to the


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ambassador whose profile, coarsened by heredity,
we have just recalled, Mme. de Vaugoubert realised
the acquired or predestined type, the immortal
example of which is the Princess Palatine, never out
of a riding habit, who, having borrowed from her
husband more than his virility, championing the
defects of the men who do not care for women,
reports in her familiar correspondence the mutual
relations of all the great noblemen of the court of
Louis XIV. One of the reasons which enhance still
farther the masculine air of women like Mme. de
Vaugoubert is that the neglect which they receive
from their husbands, the shame that they feel at
such neglect, destroy in them by degrees everything
that is womanly. They end by acquiring both the
good and the bad qualities which their husbands
lack. The more frivolous, effeminate, indiscreet their
husbands are, the more they grow into the effigy,
devoid of charm, of the virtues which their husbands
ought to practise.


       Traces of abasement, boredom, indignation,


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marred the regular features of Mme. de Vaugoubert.
Alas, I felt that she was regarding me with interest
and curiosity as one of those young men who
appealed to M. de Vaugoubert, and one of whom
she herself would so much have liked to be, now
that her husband, growing old, shewed a preference
for youth. She was gazing at me with the close
attention shewn by provincial ladies who from an
illustrated catalogue copy the tailor-made dress so
becoming to the charming person in the picture
(actually, the same person on every page, but
deceptively                multiplied                into         different             creatures,
thanks to the differences of pose and the variety of
attire). The instinctive attraction which urged Mme.
de Vaugoubert towards me was so strong that she
went the length of seizing my arm, so that I might
take her to get a glass of orangeade. But I released
myself, alleging that I must presently be going, and
had not yet been introduced to our host.


       This distance between me and the garden door
where he stood talking to a group of people was not


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very great. But it alarmed me more than if, in order
to cross it, I should have to expose myself to a
continuous hail of fire.


       A number of women from whom I felt that I
might be able to secure an introduction were in the
garden,              where,               while            feigning               an          ecstatic
admiration, they were at a loss for an occupation.
Parties of this sort are as a rule premature. They
have little reality until the following day, when they
occupy the attention of the people who were not
invited. A real author, devoid of the foolish self-
esteem of so many literary people, if, when he reads
an article by a critic who has always expressed the
greatest admiration for his works, he sees the
names of various inferior writers mentioned, but not
his own, has no time to stop and consider what
might be to him a matter for astonishment: his
books are calling him. But a society woman has
nothing to do and, on seeing in the Figaro: "Last
night the Prince and Princesse de Guermantes gave
a large party," etc., exclaims: "What! Only three


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days ago I talked to Marie-Gilbert for an hour, and
she never said a word about it!" and racks her
brains to discover how she can have offended the
Guermantes. It must be said that, so far as the
Princess's parties were concerned, the astonishment
was sometimes as great among those who were
invited as among those who were not. For they
would burst forth at the moment when one least
expected them, and summoned in people whose
existence Mme. de Guermantes had forgotten for
years.         And almost all the people in society are so
insignificant that others of their sort adopt, in
judging them, only the measure of their social
success, cherish them if they are invited, if they are
omitted detest them. As to the latter, if it was the
fact that the Princess often, even when they were
her friends, did not invite them, that was often due
to her fear of annoying 'Palamede,' who had
excommunicated them. And so I might be certain
that she had not spoken of me to M. de Charlus, for
otherwise I should not have found myself there. He
meanwhile was posted between the house and the


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garden, by the side of the German Ambassador,
leaning upon the balustrade of the great staircase
which led from the garden to the house, so that the
other guests, in spite of the three or four feminine
admirers who were grouped round the Baron and
almost concealed him, were obliged to greet him as
they passed. He responded by naming each of them
in turn. And one heard an incessant: "Good evening,
Monsieur du Hazay, good evening, Madame de la
Tour du Pin-Verclause, good evening, Madame de la
Tour du Pin-Gouvernet, good evening, Philibert,
good evening, my dear Ambassadress," and so on.
This         created               a        continuous                   barking               sound,
interspersed                  with           benevolent                   suggestions                    or
inquiries (to the answers to which he paid no
attention), which M. de Charlus addressed to them
in a tone softened, artificial to shew his indifference,
and benign: "Take care the child doesn't catch cold,
it is always rather damp in the gardens. Good
evening,             Madame                 de       Brantes.               Good            evening,
Madame de Mecklembourg. Have you brought your
daughter? Is she wearing that delicious pink frock?


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Good evening, Saint-Geran." Certainly there was an
element of pride in this attitude, for M. de Charlus
was aware that he was a Guermantes, and that he
occupied a supreme place at this party. But there
was more in it than pride, and the very word fête
suggested, to the man with aesthetic gifts, the
luxurious, curious sense that it might bear if this
party          were           being            given            not         by        people              in
contemporary society but in a painting by Carpaccio
or Veronese. It is indeed highly probable that the
German Prince that M. de Charlus was must rather
have been picturing to himself the reception that
occurs in Tannhäuser, and himself as the Margrave,
standing at the entrance to the Warburg with a kind
word of condescension for each of his guests, while
their procession into the castle or the park is
greeted by the long phrase, a hundred times
renewed, of the famous March.


       I must, however, make up my mind. I could
distinguish beneath the trees various women with
whom I was more or less closely acquainted, but


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they seemed transformed because they were at the
Princess's and not at her cousin's, and because I
saw them seated not in front of Dresden china
plates but beneath the boughs of a chestnut. The
refinement of their setting mattered nothing. Had it
been infinitely less refined than at Oriane's, I should
have felt the same uneasiness. When the electric
light in our drawing-room fails, and we are obliged
to replace it with oil lamps, everything seems
altered. I was recalled from my uncertainty by Mme.
de Souvré.                     "Good evening," she said as she
approached me. "Have you seen the Duchesse de
Guermantes lately?" She excelled in giving to
speeches of this sort an intonation which proved
that she was not uttering them from sheer silliness,
like people who, not knowing what to talk about,
come up to you a thousand times over to mention
some           bond            of        common                 acquaintance,                      often
extremely slight. She had on the contrary a fine
conducting wire in her glance which signified: "Don't
suppose for a moment that I haven't recognised
you. You are the young man I met at the Duchesse


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de        Guermantes.                       I       remember                     quite            well."
Unfortunately, this protection, extended over me by
this phrase, stupid in appearance but delicate in
intention, was extremely fragile, and vanished as
soon as I tried to make use of it. Madame de Souvré
had the art, if called upon to convey a request to
some influential person, of appearing at the same
time, in the petitioner's eyes, to be recommending
him, and in those of the influential person not to be
recommending                        the          petitioner,                 so         that           her
ambiguous gesture opened a credit balance of
gratitude to her with the latter without placing her
in any way in debt to the former. Encouraged by
this lady's civilities to ask her to introduce me to M.
de Guermantes, I found that she took advantage of
a moment when our host was not looking in our
direction, laid a motherly hand on my shoulder, and,
smiling at the averted face of the Prince who was
unable to see her, thrust me towards him with a
gesture            of      feigned              protection,               but        deliberately
ineffective, which left me stranded almost at my
starting point. Such is the cowardice of people in


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society.


       That         of       a      lady         who          came            to      greet          me,
addressing me by my name, was greater still. I tried
to recall her own name as I talked to her; I
remembered quite well having met her at dinner, I
could remember things that she had said. But my
attention, concentrated upon the inward region in
which these memories of her lingered, was unable
to      discover              her         name            there.            It      was          there,
nevertheless. My thoughts began playing a sort of
game with it to grasp its outlines, its initial letter,
and so finally to bring the whole name to light. It
was labour in vain, I could more or less estimate its
mass, its weight, but as for its forms, confronting
them with the shadowy captive lurking in the inward
night, I said to myself: "It is not that." Certainly my
mind would have been capable of creating the most
difficult names. Unfortunately, it had not to create
but to reproduce. All action by the mind is easy, if it
is not subjected to the test of reality. Here, I was
forced to own myself beaten. Finally, in a flash, the


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name came back to me as a whole: 'Madame
d'Arpajon.' I am wrong in saying that it came, for it
did not, I think, appear to me by a spontaneous
propulsion. I do not think either that the many slight
memories which associated me with the lady, and to
which I did not cease to appeal for help (by such
exhortations as: "Come now, it is the lady who is a
friend of Mme. de Souvré, who feels for Victor Hugo
so artless an admiration, mingled with so much
alarm and horror,")--I do not believe that all these
memories, hovering between me and her name,
served in any way to bring it to light. In that great
game of hide and seek which is played in our
memory when we seek to recapture a name, there
is not any series of gradual approximations. We see
nothing, then suddenly the name appears in its
exact form and very different from what we thought
we could make out. It is not the name that has
come to us. No, I believe rather that, as we go on
living, we pass our time in keeping away from the
zone in which a name is distinct, and it was by an
exercise of my will and attention which increased


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the acuteness of my inward vision that all of a
sudden I had pierced the semi-darkness and seen
daylight.               In any case, if there are transitions
between               oblivion              and          memory,                  then,           these
transitions are unconscious. For the intermediate
names through which we pass, before finding the
real name, are themselves false, and bring us
nowhere nearer to it. They are not even, properly
speaking, names at all, but often mere consonants
which are nol to be found in the recaptured name.
And yet, this operation of the mind passing from a
blank to reality is so mysterious, that it is possible
after all that these false consonants are really
handles, awkwardly held out to enable us to seize
hold of the correct name. "All this," the reader will
remark, "tells us nothing as to the lady's failure to
oblige;          but        since          you         have          made            so       long         a
digression,              allow me,                  gentle author, to                            waste
another moment of your time in telling you that it is
a pity that, young as you were (or as your hero was,
if he be not yourself), you had already so feeble a
memory that you could not recall the name of a lady


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whom you knew quite well." It is indeed a pity,
gentle reader. And sadder than you think when one
feels the time approaching when names and words
will vanish from the clear zone of consciousness,
and when one must for ever cease to name to
oneself the people whom one has known most
intimately. It is indeed a pity that one should
require this effort, when one is still young, to
recapture names which one knows quite well. But if
this infirmity occurred only in the case of names
barely known, quite naturally forgotten, names
which one would not take the trouble to remember,
the infirmity would not be without its advantages.
"And what are they, may I ask?" Well, Sir, that the
malady alone makes us remark and apprehend, and
allows us to dissect the mechanism of which
otherwise we should know nothing. A man who,
night after night, falls like a lump of lead upon his
bed, and ceases to live until the moment when he
wakes and rises, will such a man ever dream of
making, I do not say great discoveries, but even
minute observations upon sleep? He barely knows


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that he does sleep. A little insomnia is not without
its value in making us appreciate sleep, in throwing
a ray of light upon that darkness. A memory without
fault is not a very powerful incentive to studying the
phenomena of memory. "In a word, did Mme.
d'Arpajon introduce you to the Prince?" No, but be
quiet and let me go on with my story.


       Mme. d'Arpajon was even more cowardly than
Mme. de Souvré, but there was more excuse for her
cowardice. She knew that she had always had very
little influence in society. This influence, such as it
was, had been reduced still farther by her connexion
with the Duc de Guermantes; his desertion of her
dealt it the final blow. The resentment which she felt
at my request that she should introduce me to the
Prince produced a silence which, she was artless
enough to suppose, conveyed the impression that
she had not heard what I said. She was not even
aware that she was knitting her brows with anger.
Perhaps, on the other hand, she was aware of it, did
not bother about the inconsistency, and made use of


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it for the lesson which she was thus able to teach
me without undue rudeness; I mean a silent lesson,
but none the less eloquent for that.


       Apart from this, Mme. d'Arpajon was extremely
annoyed; many eyes were raised in the direction of
a renaissance balcony at the corner of which,
instead of one of those monumental statues which
were so often used as ornaments at that period,
there leaned, no less sculptural than they, the
magnificent Marquise de Surgis-le-Duc, who had
recently succeeded Mme. d'Arpajon in the heart of
Basin de Guermantes. Beneath the flimsy white tulle
which protected her from the cool night air, one saw
the supple form of a winged victory. I had no
recourse left save to M. de Charlus, who had
withdrawn to a room downstairs which opened on
the garden. I had plenty of time (as he was
pretending to be absorbed in a fictitious game of
whist which enabled him to appear not to notice
people) to admire the deliberate, artistic simplicity
of his evening coat which, by the merest trifles


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which only a tailor's eye could have picked out, had
the air of a 'Harmony in Black and White' by
Whistler; black, white and red, rather, for M. de
Charlus was wearing, hanging from a broad ribbon
pinned to the lapel of his coat, the Cross, in white,
black and red enamel, of a Knight of the religious
Order of Malta. At that moment the Baron's game
was interrupted by Mme. de Gallardon, leading her
nephew, the Vicomte de Cour-voisier, a young man
with an attractive face and an impertinent air.
"Cousin," said Mme. de Gallardon, "allow me to
introduce              my         nephew              Adalbert.               Adalbert,               you
remember the famous Palamède of whom you have
heard          so       much."             "Good            evening,              Madame                de
Gallardon," M. de Charlus replied. And he added,
without so much as a glance at the young man:
"Good evening, Sir," with a truculent air and in a
tone so violently discourteous that everyone in the
room          was         stupefied.                Perhaps              M.        de       Charlus,
knowing that Mme. de Gallardon had her doubts as
to his morals and guessing that she had not been
able to resist, for once in a way, the temptation to


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allude to them, was determined to nip in the bud
any scandal that she might have embroidered upon
a friendly reception of her nephew, making at the
same time a resounding profession of indifference
with regard to young men in general; perhaps he
had not considered that the said Adalbert had
responded to his aunt's speech with a sufficiently
respectful air; perhaps, desirous of making headway
in time to come with so attractive a cousin, he chose
to give himself the advantage of a preliminary
assault, like those sovereigns who, before engaging
upon diplomatic action, strengthen it by an act of
war.


       It was not so difficult as I supposed to secure M.
de Charlus's consent to my request that he should
introduce me to the Prince de Guermantes. For one
thing, in the course of the last twenty years, this
Don Quixote had tilted against so many windmills
(often relatives who, he imagined, had behaved
badly to him), he had so frequently banned people
as being 'impossible to have in the house' from


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being           invited             by         various               male            or        female
Guermantes, that these were beginning to be afraid
of quarrelling with all the people they knew and
liked, of condemning themselves to a lifelong
deprivation of the society of certain newcomers
whom they were curious to meet, by espousing the
thunderous but unexplained rancours of a brother-
in-law or cousin who expected them to abandon for
his sake, wife, brother, children. More intelligent
than the other Guermantes, M. de Charlus realised
that people were ceasing to pay any attention, save
once in a while, to his veto, and, looking to the
future, fearing lest one day it might be with his
society that they would dispense, he had begun to
make allowances, to reduce, as the saying is, his
terms.          Furthermore,                    if     he       had         the        faculty            of
ascribing for months, for years on end, an identical
life to a detested person--to such an one he would
not have tolerated their sending an invitation, and
would have fought, rather, like a trooper, against a
queen, the status of the person who stood in his
way ceasing to count for anything in his eyes; on


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the other hand, his explosions of wrath were too
frequent not to be somewhat fragmentary. "The
imbecile, the rascal! We shall have to put him in his
place,           sweep              him           into          the         gutter,              where
unfortunately he will not be innocuous to the health
of the town," he would scream, even when he was
alone in his own room, while reading a letter that he
considered               irreverent,                or       upon           recalling             some
remark that had been repeated to him. But a fresh
outburst against a second imbecile cancelled the
first, and the former victim had only to shew due
deference for the crisis that he had occasioned to be
forgotten, it not having lasted long enough to
establish a foundation of hatred upon which to build.
And so, I might perhaps--despite his ill-humour
towards me--have been successful when I asked
him to introduce me to the Prince, had I not been so
ill-inspired as to add, from a scruple of conscience,
and so that he might not suppose me guilty of the
indelicacy of entering the house at a venture,
counting upon him to enable me to remain there:
"You are aware that I know them quite well, the


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Princess has been very kind to me." "Very well, if
you know them, why do you need me to introduce
you?" he replied in a sharp tone, and, turning his
back, resumed his make-believe game with the
Nuncio,            the        German               Ambassador                    and         another
personage whom I did not know by sight.


       Then, from the depths of those gardens where
in days past the Duc d'Aiguillon used to breed rare
animals, there came to my ears, through the great,
open doors, the sound of a sniffing nose that was
savouring all those refinements and determined to
miss none of them. The sound approached, I moved
at a venture in its direction, with the result that the
words good evening were murmured in my ear by
M. de Bréauté, not like the rusty metallic-sound of a
knife being sharpened on a grindstone, even less
like the cry of the wild boar, devastator of tilled
fields, but like the voice of a possible saviour.


       Less influential than Mme. de Souvré, but less
deeply ingrained than she with the incapacity to


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oblige, far more at his ease with the Prince than was
Mme. d'Arpajon, entertaining some illusion perhaps
as to my position in the Guermantes set, or perhaps
knowing              more           about            it      than          myself,             I      had
nevertheless                 for       the        first        few        moments                  some
difficulty           in      arresting               his        attention,               for,        with
fluttering, distended nostrils, he was turning in
every direction, inquisitively protruding his monocle,
as though he found himself face to face with five
hundred matchless works of art. But, having heard
my request, he received it with satisfaction, led me
towards the Prince and presented me to him with a
relishing, ceremonious, vulgar air, as though he had
been handing him, with a word of commendation, a
plate of cakes. Just as the greeting of the Duc de
Guermantes was, when he chose, friendly, instinct
with good fellowship, cordial and familiar, so I found
that of the Prince stiff, solemn, haughty. He barely
smiled at me, addressed me gravely as 'Sir.' I had
often heard the Duke make fun of his cousin's
stiffness. But from the first words that he addressed
to me, which by their cold and serious tone formed


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the most entire contrast with the language of Basin,
I realised at once that the fundamentally disdainful
man was the Duke, who spoke to you at your first
meeting with him as 'man to man,' and that, of the
two cousins, the one who was really simple was the
Prince. I found in his reserve a stronger feeling, I do
not say of equality, for that would have been
inconceivable                   to       him,           but         at        least           of       the
consideration which one may shew for an inferior,
such as may be found in all strongly hierarchical
societies; in the Law Courts, for instance, in a
Faculty,            where            a      public            prosecutor                 or        dean,
conscious of their high charge, conceal perhaps
more genuine simplicity, and, when you come to
know them better, more kindness, true simplicity,
cordiality, beneath their traditional aloofness than
the more modern brethren beneath their jocular
affectation of comradeship. "Do you intend to follow
the career of Monsieur, your father?" he said to me
with a distant but interested air. I answered his
question briefly, realising that he had asked it only
out of politeness, and moved away to allow him to


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greet the fresh arrivals.


       I caught sight of Swann, and meant to speak to
him, but at that moment I saw that the Prince de
Guermantes, instead of waiting where he was to
receive the greeting of--Odette's husband, had
immediately, with the force of a suction pump,
carried him off to the farther end of the garden, in
order, as some said, 'to shew him the door.'


       So entirely absorbed in the company that I did
not learn until two days later, from the newspapers,
that a Czech orchestra had been playing throughout
the evening, and that Bengal lights had been
burning in constant succession, I recovered some
power of attention with the idea of going to look at
the celebrated fountain of Hubert Robert.


       In a clearing surrounded by fine trees several of
which were as old as itself, set in a place apart, one
could see it in the distance, slender, immobile,
stiffened, allowing the breeze to stir only the lighter


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fall of its pale and quivering plume. The eighteenth
century had refined the elegance of its lines, but, by
fixing the style of the jet, seemed to have arrested
its life; at this distance one had the impression of a
work of art rather than the sensation of water. The
moist cloud itself that was perpetually gathering at
its crest preserved the character of the period like
those that in the sky assemble round the palaces of
Versailles. But from a closer view one realised that,
while it respected, like the stones of an ancient
palace, the design traced for it beforehand, it was a
constantly changing stream of water that, springing
upwards              and         seeking             to       obey           the        architect's
traditional orders, performed them to the letter only
by seeming to infringe them, its thousand separate
bursts succeeding only at a distance in giving the
impression of a single flow. This was in reality as
often interrupted as the scattering of the fall,
whereas from a distance it had appeared to me
unyielding, solid, unbroken in its continuity. From a
little nearer, one saw that this continuity, apparently
complete, was assured, at every point in the ascent


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of the jet, wherever it must otherwise have been
broken, by the entering into line, by the lateral
incorporation of a parallel jet which mounted higher
than the first and was itself, at an altitude greater
but already a strain upon its endurance, relieved by
a third. Seen close at hand, drops without strength
fell back from the column of water crossing on their
way their climbing sisters and, at times, torn,
caught in an eddy of the night air, disturbed by this
ceaseless flow, floated awhile before being drowned
in the basin. They teased with their hesitations, with
their passage in the opposite direction, and blurred
with their soft vapour the vertical tension of that
stem, bearing aloft an oblong cloud composed of a
thousand tiny drops, but apparently painted in an
unchanging, golden brown which rose, unbreakable,
constant, urgent, swift, to mingle with the clouds in
the sky. Unfortunately, a gust of wind was enough
to scatter it obliquely on the ground; at times
indeed a single jet, disobeying its orders, swerved
and, had they not kept a respectful distance, would
have drenched to their skins the incautious crowd of


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gazers.


       One         of       these          little        accidents,               which           could
scarcely occur save when the breeze freshened for a
moment, was distinctly unpleasant. Somebody had
told Mme. d'Arpajon that the Duc de Guermantes,
who as a matter of fact had not yet arrived, was
with Mme. de Surgis in one of the galleries of pink
marble to which one ascended by the double
colonnade, hollowed out of the wall, which rose from
the brink of the fountain. Now, just as Mme.
d'Arpajon was making for one of these staircases, a
strong gust of warm air made the jet of water
swerve and inundated the fair lady so completely
that, the water streaming down from her open
bosom inside her dress, she was soaked as if she
had been plunged into a bath. Whereupon, a few
feet       away,           a      rhythmical                roar         resounded,                  loud
enough to be heard by a whole army, and at the
same time protracted in periods as though it were
being addressed not to the army as a whole but to
each unit in turn; it was the Grand Duke Vladimir,


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who was laughing wholeheartedly upon seeing the
immersion of Mme. d'Arpajon, one of the funniest
sights,          as        he        was          never           tired          of       repeating
afterwards, that he had ever seen in his life. Some
charitable               persons              having              suggested                  to        the
Muscovite that a word of sympathy from himself
was perhaps deserved and would give pleasure to
the lady who, notwithstanding her tale of forty
winters fully told, wiping herself with her scarf,
without appealing to anyone for help, was stepping
clear in spite of the water that was maliciously
spilling over the edge of the basin, the Grand Duke,
who had a kind heart, felt that he must say a word
in season, and, before the last military tattoo of his
laughter had altogether subsided, one heard a fresh
roar, more vociferous even than the last. "Bravo, old
girl!" he cried, clapping his hands as though at the
theatre. Mme. d'Arpajon was not at all pleased that
her dexterity should be commended at the expense
of her youth. And when some one remarked to her,
in a voice drowned by the roar of the water, over
which nevertheless rose the princely thunder: "I


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think His Imperial Highness said something to you."
"No! It was to Mme. de Souvré," was her reply.


       I passed through the gardens and returned by
the stair, upon which the absence of the Prince, who
had vanished with Swann, enlarged the crowd of
guests round M. de Charlus, just as, when Louis XIV
was not at Versailles, there was a more numerous
attendance upon Monsieur, his brother. I was
stopped on my way by the Baron, while behind me
two ladies and a young man came up to greet him.


       "It is nice to see you here," he said to me, as he
held out his hand. "Good evening, Madame de la
Trémoïlle, good evening, my dear Herminie." But
doubtless the memory of what he had said to me as
to      his        own           supreme                position              in       the         Hôtel
Guermantes made him wish to appear to be feeling,
with regard to a matter which annoyed him but
which he had been unable to prevent, a satisfaction
which his high-and-mighty impertinence and his
hysterical excitement immediately invested in a


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cloak of exaggerated irony.                                             "It is nice," he
repeated, "but it is, really, very odd." And he broke
into       peals          of      laughter              which           appeared                to      be
indicative at once of his joy and of the inadequacy of
human speech to express it. Certain persons,
meanwhile, who knew both how difficult he was of
access and how prone to insolent retorts, had been
drawn towards us by curiosity, and, with an almost
indecent haste, took to their heels. "Come, now,
don't be cross," he said to me, patting me gently on
the shoulder, "you know that I am your friend.
Good evening, Antioche, good evening, Louis-René.
Have you been to look at the fountain?" he asked
me in a tone that was affirmative rather than
questioning. "It is quite pretty, ain't it? It is
marvellous. It might be made better still, naturally,
if certain things were removed, and then there
would be nothing like it in France. But even as it
stands, it is quite one of the best things. Bréauté
will tell you that it was a mistake to put lamps round
it, to try and make people forget that it was he who
was responsible for that absurd idea. But after all he


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has only managed to spoil it a very little. It is far
more difficult to deface a great work of art than to
create one. Not that we had not a vague suspicion
all the time that Bréauté was not quite a match for
Hubert Robert."


       I drifted back into the stream of guests who
were entering the house. "Have you seen my
delicious cousin Oriane lately?" I was asked by the
Princess who had now deserted her post by the door
and with whom I was making my way back to the
rooms. "She's sure to be here to-night, I saw her
this afternoon," my hostess added. "She promised
me to come. I believe too that you will be dining
with us both to meet the Queen of Italy, at the
Embassy, on Thursday. There are to be all the
Royalties imaginable, it will be most alarming." They
could not in any way alarm the Princesse de
Guermantes, whose rooms swarmed with them, and
who would say: 'My little Coburgs' as she might
have said 'my little dogs.' And so Mme.                                                                 de
Guermantes said: "It will be most alarming," out of


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sheer silliness, which, among people in society,
overrides even their vanity. With regard to her own
pedigree, she knew less than a passman in history.
As for the people of her circle, she liked to shew
that she knew the nicknames with which they had
been labelled. Having asked me whether I was
dining, the week after, with the Marquise de la
Pommelière, who was often called 'la Pomme,' the
Princess, having elicited a reply in the negative,
remained silent for some moments. Then, without
any other motive than a deliberate display of
instinctive erudition, banality, and conformity to the
prevailing spirit, she added: "She's not a bad sort,
the Pomme!"


       While the Princess was talking to me, it so
happened                 that          the         Duc           and           Duchesse                 de
Guermantes made their entrance. But I could not go
at once to greet them, for I was waylaid by the
Turkish Ambassadress, who, pointing to our hostess
whom I had just left, exclaimed as she seized me by
the arm: "Ah! What a delicious woman the Princess


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is! What a superior being! I feel sure that, if I were
a man," she went on, with a trace of Oriental
servility and sensuality, "I would give my life for
that heavenly creature." I replied that I did indeed
find her charming, but that I knew her cousin, the
Duchess, better. "But there is no comparison," said
the Ambassadress.                           "Oriane is a charming society
woman who gets her wit from Même and Babal,
whereas Marie-Gilbert is somebody."


       I never much like to be told like this, without a
chance to reply, what I ought to think about people
whom I know. And there was no reason why the
Turkish Ambassadress should be in any way better
qualified than myself to judge of the worth of the
Duchesse de Guermantes.


       On the other hand (and this explained also my
annoyance with the Ambassadress), the defects of a
mere acquaintance, and even of a friend, are to us
real poisons, against which we are fortunately
'mithridated.'


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       But, without applying any standard of scientific
comparison and talking of anaphylaxis, let us say
that, at the heart of our friendly or purely social
relations, there lurks a hostility momentarily cured
but recurring by fits and starts. As a rule, we suffer
little from these poisons, so long as people are
'natural.' By saying 'Babal' and 'Mémé' to indicate
people with whom she was not acquainted, the
Turkish Ambassadress suspended the effects of the
'mithridatism' which, as a rule, made me find her
tolerable. She annoyed me, which was all the more
unfair, inasmuch as she did not speak like this to
make me think that she was an intimate friend of
'Mémé,' but owing to a too rapid education which
made her name these noble lords according to what
she believed to be the custom of the country. She
had crowded her course into a few months, and had
not picked up the rules. But, on thinking it over, I
found another reason for my disinclination to remain
in the Ambassadress's company. It was not so very
long        since,          at       Oriane's,              this        same            diplomatic


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personage had said to me, with a purposeful and
serious           air,       that         she        found           the         Princesse              de
Guermantes frankly antipathetic. I felt that I need
not stop to consider this change of front: the
invitation to the party this evening had brought it
about. The Ambassadress was perfectly sincere
when she told me that the Princesse de Guermantes
was a sublime creature. She had always thought so.
But, having never before been invited to the
Princess's house, she had felt herself bound to give
this non-invitation the appearance of a deliberate
abstention on principle.                                Now that she had been
asked, and would presumably continue to be asked
in the future, she could give free expression to her
feelings. There is no need, in accounting for three
out of four of the opinions that we hold about other
people, to go so far as crossed love or exclusion
from public office. Our judgment remains uncertain:
the       withholding                  or       bestowal               of       an        invitation
determines it. Anyhow, the Turkish Ambassadress,
as the Baronne de Guermantes remarked while
making a tour of inspection through the rooms with


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me, 'was all right.' She was, above all, extremely
useful. The real stars of society are tired of
appearing there. He who is curious to gaze at them
must often migrate to another hemisphere, where
they are more or less alone. But women like the
Ottoman Ambassadress, of quite recent admission
to society, are never weary of shining there, and, so
to speak, everywhere at once. They are of value at
entertainments of the sort known as soirée or rout,
to which they would let themselves be dragged from
their deathbeds rather than miss one. They are the
supers upon whom a hostess can always count,
determined never to miss a party.                                                  And so, the
foolish young men, unaware that they are false
stars, take them for the queens of fashion, whereas
it would require a formal lecture to explain to them
by virtue of what reasons Mme. Standish, who, her
existence unknown to them, lives remote from the
world, painting cushions, is at least as great a lady
as the Duchesse de Doudeauville.


       In the ordinary course of life, the eyes of the


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Duchesse de Guermantes were absent and slightly
melancholy, she made them sparkle with a. flame of
wit only when she had to say how-d'ye-do to a
friend; precisely as though the said friend had been
some witty remark, some charming touch, some
titbit for delicate palates, the savour of which has
set on the face of the connoisseur an expression of
refined joy. But upon big evenings, as she had too
many greetings to bestow, she decided that it would
be tiring to have to switch off the light after each.
Just as an ardent reader, when he goes to the
theatre to see a new piece by one of the masters of
the stage, testifies to his certainty that he is not
going to spend a dull evening by having, while he
hands his hat and coat to the attendant, his lip
adjusted in readiness for a sapient smile, his eye
kindled for a sardonic approval; similarly it was at
the moment of her arrival that the Duchess lighted
up for the whole evening. And while she was
handing over her evening cloak, of a magnificent
Tiepolo red, exposing a huge collar of rubies round
her neck, having cast over her gown that final rapid,


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minute and exhaustive dressmaker's glance which is
also that of a woman of the world, Oriane made
sure that her eyes, just as much as her other
jewels, were sparkling. In vain might sundry 'kind
friends' such as M. de Janville fling themselves upon
the Duke to keep him from entering: "But don't you
know that poor Mama is at his last gasp? He had
had the Sacraments." "I know, I know," answered
M. de Guermantes, thrusting the tiresome fellow
aside in order to enter the room. "The viaticum has
acted splendidly," he added, with a smile of pleasure
at the thought of the ball which he was determined
not to miss after the Prince's party. "We did not
want people to know that we had come back," the
Duchess said to me. She never suspected that the
Princess had already disproved this statement by
telling me that she had seen her cousin for a
moment, who had promised to come. The Duke,
after a protracted stare with which he proceeded to
crush his wife for the space of five minutes,
observed: "I told Oriane about your misgivings."
Now that she saw that they were unfounded, and


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that she herself need take no action in the attempt
to dispel them, she pronounced them absurd, and
continued to chaff me about them. "The idea of
supposing that you were not invited! Besides, wasn't
I there? Do you suppose that I should be unable to
get you an invitation to my cousin's house?" I must
admit that frequently, after this, she did things for
me that were far more difficult; nevertheless, I took
care not to interpret her words in the sense that I
had been too modest. I was beginning to learn the
exact value of the language, spoken or mute, of
aristocratic affability, an affability that is happy to
shed balm upon the sense of inferiority in those
persons towards whom it is directed, though not to
the point of dispelling that sense, for in that case it
would no longer have any reason to exist. "But you
are our equal, if not our superior," the Guermantes
seemed, in all their actions, to be saying; and they
said it in the most courteous fashion imaginable, to
be loved, admired, but not to be believed; that one
should           discern            the        fictitious            character               of       this
affability was what they called being well-bred; to


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suppose it to be genuine, a sign of ill-breeding. I
was to receive, as it happened, shortly after this, a
lesson           which            gave            me          a       full        and          perfect
understanding of the extent and limitations of
certain forms of aristocratic affability. It was at an
afternoon               party           given            by        the         Duchesse                 de
Montmorency to meet the Queen of England; there
was a sort of royal procession to the buffet, at the
head of which walked Her Majesty on the arm of the
Duc de Guermantes.                             I happened to arrive at that
moment.              With          his       disengaged                  hand           the        Duke
conveyed to me, from a distance of nearly fifty
yards, a thousand signs of friendly invitation, which
appeared to mean that I need not be afraid to
approach, that I should not be devoured alive
instead of the sandwiches. But I, who was becoming
word-perfect in the language of the court, instead of
going even one step nearer, keeping my fifty yards'
interval, made a deep how, but without smiling, the
sort of bow that I should have made to some one
whom I scarcely knew, then proceeded in the
opposite direction. Had I written a masterpiece, the


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Guermantes would have given me less credit for it
than I earned by that bow. Not only did it not pass
unperceived by the Duke, albeit he had that day to
acknowledge                   the        greetings               of      more           than          five
hundred people, it caught the eye of the Duchess,
who, happening to meet my mother, told her of it,
and, so far from suggesting that I had done wrong,
that I ought to have gone up to him, said that her
husband had been lost in admiration of my bow,
that it would have been impossible for anyone to put
more into it. They never ceased to find in that bow
every possible merit, without however mentioning
that which had seemed the most priceless of all, to
wit that it had been discreet, nor did they cease
either to pay me compliments which I understood to
be even less a reward for the past than a hint for
the future, after the fashion of the hint delicately
conveyed to his pupils by the headmaster of a
school: "Do not forget, my boys, that these prizes
are intended not so much for you as for your
parents, so that they may send you back next
term." So it was that Mme. de Marsantes, when


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some one from a different world entered her circle,
would praise in his hearing the discreet people
whom "you find at home when you go to see them,
and who at other times let you forget their
existence," as one warns by an indirect allusion a
servant who has an unpleasant smell, that the
practice of taking a bath is beneficial to the health.


       While, before she had even left the entrance
hall, I was talking to Mme. de Guermantes, I could
hear a voice of a sort which, for the future, I was to
be able to classify without the possibility of error. It
was, in this particular instance, the voice of M. de
Vaugoubert talking to M. de Charlus.                                                      A skilled
physician need not even make his patient unbutton
his shirt, nor listen to his breathing, the sound of his
voice is enough. How often, in time to come, was
my ear to be caught in a drawing-room by the
intonation or laughter of some man, who, for all
that, was copying exactly the language of his
profession or the manners of his class, affecting a
stern aloofness or a coarse familiarity, but whose


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artificial voice was enough to indicate: 'He is a
Charlus' to my trained ear, like the note of a tuning
fork. At that moment the entire staff of one of the
Embassies went past, pausing to greet M. de
Charlus. For all that my discovery of the sort of
malady in question dated only from that afternoon
(when I had surprised M. de Charlus with Jupien) I
should have had no need, before giving a diagnosis,
to      put        questions,                 to       auscultate.                 But         M.       de
Vaugoubert,                  when            talking            to       M.       de        Charlus,
appeared uncertain. And yet he must have known
what was in the air after the doubts of his
adolescence. The invert believes himself to be the
only one of his kind in the universe; it is only in
later years that he imagines--another exaggeration-
-that the unique exception is the normal man. But,
ambitious and timorous, M. de Vaugoubert had not
for many years past surrendered himself to what
would to him have meant pleasure. The career of
diplomacy had had the same effect upon his life as a
monastic profession. Combined with his assiduous
fréquentation of the School of Political Sciences, it


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had vowed him from his twentieth year to the
chastity of a professing Christian. And so, as each of
our senses loses its strength and vivacity, becomes
atrophied when it is no longer exercised, M. de
Vaugoubert, just as the civilised man is no longer
capable of the feats of strength, of the acuteness of
hearing of the cave-dweller, had lost that special
perspicacy which was rarely at fault in M. de
Charlus; and at official banquets, whether in Paris or
abroad, the Minister Plenipotentiary was no longer
capable of identifying those who, beneath the
disguise            of      their         uniform,               were          at       heart           his
congeners. Certain names mentioned by M. de
Charlus, indignant if he himself was cited for his
peculiarities, but always delighted to give away
those of other people, caused M. de Vaugoubert an
exquisite surprise. Not that, after all these years, he
dreamed of profiting by any windfall. But these rapid
revelations, similar to those which in Racine's
tragedies inform Athalie and Abner that Joas is of
the House of David, that Esther, enthroned in the
purple, comes of a Yiddish stock, changing the


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aspect of the X-----Legation, or of one or another
department of the Ministry of                                              Foreign             Affairs,
rendered those palaces as mysterious, in retrospect,
as the Temple of Jerusalem or the Throne-room at
Susa. At the sight of the youthful staff of this
Embassy advancing in a body to shake hands with
M. de Charlus, M. de Vaugoubert assumed the
astonished air of Elise exclaiming, in Esther: "Great
heavens! What a swarm of innocent beauties issuing
from all sides presents itself to my gaze! How
charming a modesty is depicted on their faces!"
Then, athirst for more definite information, he cast
at     M.       de        Charlus             a      smiling            glance            fatuously
interrogative and concupiscent.                                          "Why, of course
they are," said M. de Charlus with the knowing air of
a learned man speaking to an ignoramus. From that
instant M. de Vaugoubert (greatly to the annoyance
of M. de Charlus) could not tear his eyes from these
young secretaries whom the X-----Ambassador to
France, an old stager, had not chosen blindfold. M.
de Vaugoubert remained silent, I could only watch
his eyes. But, being accustomed from my childhood


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to apply, even to what is voiceless, the language of
the classics, I made M.                                      de Vaugoubert's eyes
repeat the lines in which Esther explains to Elise
that Mardochée, in his zeal for his religion, has
made it a rule that only those maidens who profess
it shall be employed about the Queen's person.
"And now his love for our nation has peopled this
palace with daughters of Sion, young and tender
flowers wafted by fate, transplanted like myself
beneath a foreign sky. In a place set apart from
profane             eyes,           he"         (the          worthy              Ambassador)
"devotes his skill and labour to shaping them."


       At length M. de Vaugoubert spoke, otherwise
than with his eyes. "Who knows," he said sadly,
"that in the country where I live the same thing
does not exist also?" "It is probable," replied M. de
Charlus, "starting with King Theodosius, not that I
know anything definite about him." "Oh, dear, no!
Nothing of that sort!" "Then he has no right to look
it so completely. Besides, he has all the little tricks.
He had that 'my dear' manner, which I detest more


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than anything in the world. I should never dare to
be seen walking in the street with him. Anyhow, you
must know what he is, they all call him the White
Wolf." "You are entirely mistaken about him. He is
quite charming, all the same. The day on which the
agreement with France was signed, the King kissed
me. I have never been so moved." "That was the
moment to tell him what you wanted." "Oh, good
heavens! What an idea! If he were even to suspect
such a thing! But I have no fear in that direction." A
conversation which I could hear, for I was standing
close by, and which made me repeat to myself: "The
King unto this day knows not who I am, and this
secret keeps my tongue still enchained."


       This dialogue, half mute, half spoken, had lasted
but a few moments, and I had barely entered the
first of the drawing-rooms with the Duchesse de
Guermantes when a little dark lady, extremely
pretty, stopped her.


       "I've          been            looking              for        you           everywhere.


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D'Annunzio saw you from a box in the theatre, he
has written the Princesse de T-----a letter in which
he says that he never saw anything so lovely. He
would give his life for ten minutes' conversation with
you. In any case, even if you can't or won't, the
letter is in my possession. You must fix a day to
come and see me. There are some secrets which I
cannot tell you here. I see you don't remember me,"
she added, turning to myself; "I met you at the
Princesse de Parme's" (where I had never been).
"The Emperor of Russia is anxious for your father to
be sent to Petersburg. If you could come in on
Monday, Isvolski himself will be there, he will talk to
you about it. I have a present for you, by dear," she
went on, returning to the Duchess, "which I should
not dream of giving to anyone but you. The
manuscripts of three of Ibsen's plays, which he sent
to me by his old attendant. I shall keep one and
give you the other two."


       The Duc de Guermantes was not overpleased by
these           offers.            Uncertain                 whether                Ibsen             and


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D'Annunzio were dead or alive, he could see in his
mind's eye a tribe of authors, playwrights, coming
to call upon his wife and putting her in their works.
People in society are too apt to think of a book as a
sort of cube one side of which has been removed, so
that the author can at once 'put in' the people he
meets. This is obviously disloyal, and authors are a
pretty low class. Certainly, it would not be a bad
thing to meet them once in a way, for thanks to
them, when one reads a book or an article, one can
'read between the lines,' 'unmask' the characters.
After all, though, the wisest thing is to stick to dead
authors. M.                  de Guermantes considered 'quite all
right' only the gentleman who did the funeral
notices in the Gaulois. He, at any rate, confined
himself to including M. de Guermantes among the
people 'conspicuous by their presence' at funerals at
which the Duke had given his name. When he
preferred that his name should not appear, instead
of giving it, he sent a letter of condolence to the
relatives of the deceased, assuring them of his deep
and heartfelt sympathy. If, then, the family sent to


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the paper "among the letters received, we may
mention one from the Duc de Guermantes," etc.,
this was the fault not of the ink-slinger but of the
son, brother, father of the deceased whom the Duke
thereupon described as upstarts, and with whom he
decided for the future to have no further dealings
(what he called, not being very well up in the
meaning of such expressions, 'having a crow to
pick'). In any event, the names of Ibsen and
D'Annunzio, and his uncertainty as to their survival,
brought a frown to the brows of the Duke, who was
not far enough away from us to escape hearing the
various              blandishments                         of          Mme.               Timoléon
d'Amoncourt. This was a charming woman, her wit,
like her beauty, so entrancing that either of them by
itself would have made her shine. But, born outside
the world in which she now lived, having aspired at
first       merely             to       a       literary            salon,            the        friend
successively--and nothing more than a friend, for
her morals were above reproach--and exclusively of
every          great            writer,            who           gave            her         all        his
manuscripts, wrote books for her, chance having


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once        introduced                 her        into        the        Faubourg                Saint-
Germain, these literary privileges were of service to
her there. She had now an established position, and
no longer needed to dispense other graces than
those         that         were          shed           by       her        presence.                But,
accustomed in times past to act as go-between, to
render services, she persevered in them even when
they were no longer necessary. She had always a
state secret to reveal to you, a potentate whom you
must meet, a water colour by a master to present to
you. There was indeed in all these superfluous
attractions a trace of falsehood, but they made her
life a comedy that scintillated with complications,
and it was no exaggeration to say that she
appointed prefects and generals.


       As she strolled by my side, the Duchesse de
Guermantes allowed the azure light of her eyes to
float in front of her, but vaguely, so as to avoid the
people with whom she did not wish to enter into
relations, whose presence she discerned at times,
like a menacing reef in the distance. We advanced


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between a double hedge of guests, who, conscious
that they would never come to know 'Oriane,' were
anxious at least to point her out, as a curiosity, to
their wives: "Quick, Ursule, come and look at
Madame de Guermantes talking to that young man."
And one felt that in another moment they would be
clambering upon the chairs, for a better view, as at
the Military Review on the 14th of July, or the Grand
Prix. Not that the Duchesse de Guermantes had a
more          aristocratic                salon          than          her        cousin.             The
former's was frequented by people whom the latter
would never have been willing to invite, principally
on account of her husband. She would never have
been at home to Mme. Alphonse de Rothschild, who,
an intimate friend of Mme. de la Trémoïlle and of
Mme.          de       Sagan,             as       was         Oriane             herself,           was
constantly to be seen in the house of the last-
named. It was the same with Baron Hirsch, whom
the Prince of Wales had brought to see her, but not
to the Princess, who would not have approved of
him, and also with certain outstandingly notorious
Bonapartists                 or        even           Republicans,                   whom              the


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Duchess found interesting but whom the Prince, a
convinced Royalist, would not have allowed inside
his house. His anti-semitism also being founded on
principle did not yield before any social distinction,
however strongly accredited, and if he was at home
to Swann, whose friend he had been since their
boyhood, being, however, the only one of the
Guermantes who addressed him as Swann and not
as Charles, this was because, knowing that Swann's
grandmother, a Protestant married to a Jew, had
been the Duc de Berri's mistress, he endeavoured,
from time to time, to believe in the legend which
made out Swann's father to be a natural son of that
Prince. By this hypothesis, which incidentally was
false, Swann, the son of a Catholic father, himself
the son of a Bourbon by a Catholic mother, was a
Christian to his finger-tips.


       "What, you don't know these glories?" said the
Duchess, referring to the rooms through which we
were moving. But, having given its due meed of
praise to her cousin's 'palace,' she hastened to add


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that she a thousand times preferred her own
'humble den.' "This is an admirable house to visit.
But I should die of misery if I had to stay behind
and sleep in rooms that have witnessed so many
historic events. It would give me the feeling of
having been left after closing-time, forgotten, in the
Château of Blois, or Fontainebleau, or even the
Louvre, with no antidote to my depression except to
tell myself that I was in the room in which
Monaldeschi was murdered. As a sedative, that is
not good enough. Why, here comes Mme. de Saint-
Euverte. We've just been dining with her. As she is
giving her great annual beanfeast to-morrow, I
supposed she would be going straight to bed. But
she can never miss a party. If this one had been in
the country, she would have jumped on a lorry
rather than not go to it."


       As a matter of fact, Mme. de Saint-Euverte had
come this evening, less for the pleasure of not
missing another person's party than in order to
ensure the success of her own, recruit the latest


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additions to her list, and, so to speak, hold an
eleventh hour review of the troops who were on the
morrow to perform such brilliant evolutions at her
garden party. For, in the long course of years, the
guests at the Saint-Euverte parties had almost
entirely changed. The female celebrities of the
Guermantes world, formerly so sparsely scattered,
had--loaded with attentions by their hostess--begun
gradually to bring their friends. At the same time,
by an enterprise equally progressive, but in the
opposite direction, Mme. de Saint-Euverte had, year
by year, reduced the number of persons unknown to
the world of fashion. You had ceased to see first one
of them, then another. For some time the 'batch'
system was in operation, which enabled her, thanks
to parties over which a veil of silence was drawn, to
summon the inéligibles separately to entertain one
another, which dispensed her from having to invite
them with the nice people. What cause had they for
complaint?                    Were           they         not        given           (panem              et
circenses) light refreshments and a select musical
programme? And so, in a kind of symmetry with the


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two exiled duchesses whom, in years past, when the
Saint-Euverte salon was only starting, one used to
see holding up, like a pair of Caryatides, its unstable
crest, in these later years one could distinguish,
mingling with the fashionable throng, only two
heterogeneous persons, old Mme. de Cambremer
and the architect's wife with a fine voice who was
always having to be asked to sing. But, no longer
knowing             anybody               at       Mme.            de       Saint-Euverte's,
bewailing their lost comrades, feeling that they were
in the way, they stood about with a frozen-to-death
air, like two swallows that have not migrated in
time. And so, the following year, they were not
invited; Mme. de Fran-quetot made an attempt on
behalf of her cousin, who was so fond of music. But
as she could obtain for her no more explicit reply
than the words: "Why, people can always come in
and listen to music, if they like; there is nothing
criminal about that!" Mme. de Cambremer did not
find        the         invitation               sufficiently                pressing,                and
abstained.



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       Such a transformation having been effected by
Mme. de Saint-Euverte, from a leper hospice to a
gathering               of       great            ladies           (the          latest           form,
apparently in the height of fashion, that it had
assumed), it might seem odd that the person who
on the following day was to give the most brilliant
party of the season should need to appear overnight
to address a last word of command to her troops.
But the fact was that the pre-eminence of Mme. de
Saint-Euverte's drawing-room existed only for those
whose social life consists entirely in reading the
accounts of afternoon and evening parties in the
Gaulois or Figaro, without ever having been present
at one. To these worldlings who see the world only
as reflected in the newspapers, the enumeration of
the British, Austrian, etc., Ambassadresses, of the
Duchesses d'Uzès, de la Trémoïlle, etc., etc., was
sufficient to make them instinctively imagine the
Saint-Euverte drawing-room to be the first in Paris,
whereas it was among the last. Not that the reports
were mendacious. The majority of the persons
mentioned had indeed been present. But each of


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them had come in response to entreaties, civilities,
services, and with the sense of doing infinite honour
to Mme. de Saint-Euverte. Such drawing-rooms,
shunned rather than sought after, to which people
are so to speak roped in, deceive no one but the fair
readers of the 'Society' column. They pass over a
really fashionable party, the sort at which the
hostess, who could have had all the duchesses in
existence, they being athirst to be 'numbered
among the elect,' invites only two or three and does
not send any list of her guests to the papers. And so
these hostesses, ignorant or contemptuous of the
power          that         publicity             has        acquired              to-day,             are
considered fashionable by the Queen of Spain but
are overlooked by the crowd, because the former
knows and the latter does not know who they are.


       Mme. de Saint-Euverte was not one of these
women, and, with an eye to the main chance, had
come to gather up for the morrow everyone who
had been invited. M. de Charlus was not among
these, he had always refused to go to her house.


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But he had quarrelled with so many people that
Mme. de Saint-Euverte might put this down to his
peculiar nature.


       Assuredly, if it had been only Oriane, Mme. de
Saint-Euverte need not have put herself to the
trouble, for the invitation had been given by word of
mouth, and, what was more, accepted with that
charming, deceiving grace in the exercise of which
those Academicians are unsurpassed from whose
door the candidate emerges with a melting heart,
never doubting that he can count upon their
support. But there were others as well. The Prince
d'Agrigente, would he come? And Mme. de Durfort?
And so, with an eye to business, Mme. de Saint-
Euverte had thought it expedient to appear on the
scene in person. Insinuating with some, imperative
with others, to all alike she hinted in veiled words at
inconceivable attractions which could never be seen
anywhere again, and promised each that he should
find at her party the person he most wished, or the
personage he most wanted to meet. And this sort of


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function with which she was invested on one day in
the year--like certain public offices in the ancient
world--of the person who is to give on the morrow
the biggest garden-party of the season conferred
upon her a momentary authority. Her lists were
made up and closed, so that while she wandered
slowly through the Princess's rooms to drop into one
ear after another: "You won't forget about me to-
morrow," she had the ephemeral glory of turning
away her eyes, while continuing to smile, if she
caught sight of some horrid creature who was to be
avoided or some country squire for whom the bond
of a schoolboy friendship had secured admission to
Gilbert's, and whose presence at her garden-party
would be no gain. She preferred not to speak to
him, so as to be able to say later on: "I issued my
invitations verbally, and unfortunately I didn't see
you anywhere." And so she, a mere Saint-Euverte,
set to work with her gimlet eyes to pick and choose
among the guests at the Princess's party. And she
imagined herself, in so doing, to be every inch a
Duchesse de Guermantes.


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       It must be admitted that the latter lady had not,
either,            whatever                  one           might              suppose,                 the
unrestricted use of her greetings and smiles. To
some extent, no doubt, when she withheld them, it
was deliberately. "But the woman bores me to
tears," she would say, "am I expected to talk to her
about her party for the next hour?"


       A duchess of swarthy complexion went past,
whom           her        ugliness             and         stupidity,              and         certain
irregularities of behaviour, had exiled not from
society as a whole but from certain small and
fashionable                circles.           "Ah!"           murmured                  Mme.            de
Guermantes, with the sharp, unerring glance of the
connoisseur who is shewn a false jewel, "so they
have that sort here?" By the mere sight of this
semi-tarnished lady, whose face was burdened with
a surfeit of moles from which black hairs sprouted,
Mme.           de         Guermantes                     gauged               the         mediocre
importance of this party. They had been brought up
together, but she had severed all relations with the


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lady; and responded to her greeting only with the
curtest little nod. "I cannot understand," she said to
me, "how Marie-Gilbert can invite us with all that
scum. You might say there was a deputation of
paupers from every parish.                                            Mélanie Pourtalès
arranged things far better. She could have the Holy
Synod and the Oratoire Chapel in her house if she
liked, but at least she didn't invite us on the same
day." But, in many cases, it was from timidity, fear
of a scene with her husband, who did not like her to
entertain artists and such like (Marie-Gilbert took a
kindly interest in dozens of them, you had to take
care not to be accosted by some illustrious German
diva), from some misgivings, too, with regard to
Nationalist feeling, which, inasmuch as she was
endowed, like M. de Charlus, with the wit of the
Guermantes, she despised from the social point of
view (people were now, for the greater glory of the
General Staff, sending a plebeian general in to
dinner           before            certain            dukes),              but         to       which,
nevertheless, as she knew that she was considered
unsound in her views, she made liberal concessions,


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even dreading the prospect of having to offer her
hand to Swann in these anti-semitic surroundings.
With regard to this, her mind was soon set at rest,
for she learned that the Prince had refused to have
Swann in the house, and had had 'a sort of an
altercation' with him. There was no risk of her
having to converse in public with 'poor Charles,'
whom she preferred to cherish in private.


       "And who in the world is that?" Mme. de
Guermantes exclaimed, upon seeing a little lady
with a slightly lost air, in a black gown so simple
that you would have taken her for a pauper, greet
her, as did also the lady's husband, with a sweeping
bow. She did not recognise the lady and, in her
insolent way, drew herself up as though offended
and stared at her without responding. "Who is that
person,            Basin?"              she          asked            with          an         air        of
astonishment, while M. de Guermantes, to atone for
Oriane's impoliteness, was bowing to the lady and
shaking hands with her husband. "Why, it is Mme.
de Chaussepierre, you were most impolite." "I have


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never heard of anybody called Chaussepierre." "Old
mother            Chanlivault's                   nephew."                "I       haven't             the
faintest idea what you're talking about. Who is the
woman, and why does she bow to me?" "But you
know her perfectly, she's Mme.                                                 de Charleval's
daughter, Henriette Montmorency." "Oh, but I knew
her mother quite well, she was charming, extremely
intelligent. What made her go and marry all these
people I never heard of? You say that she calls
herself Mme. de Chaussepierre?" she said, isolating
each syllable of the name with a questioning air,
and as though she were afraid of making a mistake.
"It is not so ridiculous as you appear to think, to call
oneself Chaussepierre! Old Chaussepierre was the
brother of the aforesaid Chan-livault, of Mme. de
Sennecour and of the Vicomtesse de Merlerault.
They're a good family." "Oh, do stop," cried the
Duchess, who, like a lion-tamer, never cared to
appear to be allowing herself to be intimidated by
the devouring glare of the animal. "Basin, you are
the joy of my life. I can't imagine where you picked
up those names, but I congratulate you on them. If


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I did not know Chaussepierre, I have at least read
Balzac, you are not the only one, and I have even
read Labiche. I can appreciate Chanlivault, I do not
object         to       Charleval,               but        I     must           confess             that
Merlerault is a masterpiece. However, let us admit
that Chaussepierre is not bad either. You must have
gone about collecting them, it's not possible. You
mean to write a book," she turned to myself, "you
ought to make a note of Charleval and Merlerault.
You will find nothing better." "He will find himself in
the dock, and will go to prison; you are giving him
very bad advice, Oriane." "I hope, for his own sake,
that he has younger people than me at his disposal
if he wishes to ask for bad advice; especially if he
means to follow it. But if he means to do nothing
worse than write a book!" At some distance from us,
a     wonderful,                proud            young             woman               stood           out
delicately from the throng in a white dress, all
diamonds               and          tulle.         Madame                 de        Guermantes
watched her talking to a whole group of people
fascinated by her grace. "Your sister is the belle of
the ball, as usual; she is charming to-night," she


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said, as she took a chair, to the Prince de Chimay
who went past. Colonel de Froberville (the General
of that name was his uncle) came and sat down
beside us, as did M. de Bréauté, while M. de
Vaugou-bert, after hovering about us (by an excess
of politeness which he maintained even when
playing tennis when, by dint of asking leave of the
eminent personages present before hitting the ball,
he invariably lost the game for his partner) returned
to     M.       de        Charlus             (until         that         moment               almost
concealed by the huge skirt of the Comtesse Mole,
whom he professed to admire above all other
women), and, as it happened, at the moment when
several members of the latest diplomatic mission to
Paris were greeting the Baron. At the sight of a
young secretary with a particularly intelligent air, M.
de Vaugoubert fastened on M. de Charlus a smile
upon which there bloomed visibly one question only.
M. de Charlus would, no doubt, readily have
compromised some one else, but to feel himself
compromised by this smile formed on another
person's lips, which, moreover, could have but one


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meaning, exasperated him. "I know absolutely
nothing about the matter, I beg you to keep your
curiosity to yourself. It leaves me more than cold.
Besides, in this instance, you are making a mistake
of the first order. I believe this young man to be
absolutely the opposite." Here M. de Charlus,
irritated at being thus given away by a fool, was not
speaking the truth. The secretary would, had the
Baron been correct, have formed an exception to
the rule of his Embassy. It was, as a matter of fact,
composed of widely different personalities, many of
them extremely second-rate, so that, if one sought
to discover what could have been the motive of the
selection that had brought them together, the only
one possible seemed to be inversion. By setting at
the       head          of       this        little        diplomatic                Sodom              an
Ambassador who on the contrary ran after women
with the comic exaggeration of an old buffer in a
revue,            who            made              his          battalion                of        male
impersonators toe the line, the authorities seemed
to have been obeying the law of contrasts. In spite
of what he had beneath his nose, he did not believe


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in inversion. He gave an immediate proof of this by
marrying his sister to a Chargé d'Affaires whom he
believed, quite mistakenly, to be a womaniser. After
this he became rather a nuisance and was soon
replaced by a fresh Excellency who ensured the
homogeneity of the party. Other Embassies sought
to rival this one, but could never dispute the prize
(as in the matriculation examinations, where a
certain school always heads the list), and more than
ten       years          had         to       pass         before,            heterogeneous
attachés having been introduced into this too
perfect whole, another might at last wrest the grim
trophy from it and march at the head.


       Reassured as to her fear of having to talk to
Swann, Mme. de Guermantes felt now merely
curious as to the subject of the conversation he had
had with their host. "Do you know what it was
about?" the Duke asked M. de Bréauté. "I did hear,"
the other replied, "that it was about a little play
which the writer Bergotte produced at their house.
It was a delightful show, as it happens. But it seems


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the actor made up as Gilbert, whom, as it happens,
Master Bergotte had intended to take off." "Oh, I
should have loved to see Gilbert taken off," said the
Duchess, with a dreamy smile. "It was about this
little      performance,"                      M.        de        Bréauté              went           on,
thrusting forward his rodent jaw, "that Gilbert
demanded an explanation from Swann, who merely
replied what everyone thought very witty: 'Why, not
at all, it wasn't the least bit like you, you are far
funnier!'            It     appears,               though,"               M.       de        Bréauté
continued, "that the little play was quite delightful.
Mme. Molé was there, she was immensely amused."
"What, does Mme.                                 Molé go there?" said the
Duchess in astonishment. "Ah! That must be Mémé's
doing. That is what always happens, in the end, to
that sort of house. One fine day everybody begins to
flock to it, and I, who have deliberately remained
aloof, upon principle, find myself left to mope alone
in my corner." Already, since M. de Bréauté's
speech, the Duchesse de Guermantes (with regard if
not to Swann's house, at least to the hypothesis of
encountering him at any moment) had, as we see,


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adopted a fresh point of view. "The explanation that
you have given us," said Colonel de Fro-berville to
M. de Bréauté, "is entirely unfounded. I have good
reason to know. The Prince purely and simply gave
Swann a dressing down and would have him to
know, as our forebears used to say, that he was not
to shew his face in the house again, seeing the
opinions he flaunts. And, to my mind, my uncle
Gilbert was right a thousand times over, not only in
giving Swann a piece of his mind, he ought to have
finished           six       months              ago          with         an       out-and-out
Dreyfusard."


       Poor M. de Vaugoubert, changed now from a too
cautious tennis-player to a mere inert tennis ball
which is tossed to and fro without compunction,
found himself projected towards the Duchesse de
Guermantes to whom he made obeisance. He was
none too well received, Oriane living in the belief
that all the diplomats--or politicians--of her world
were nincompoops.



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       M. de Froberville had greatly benefited by the
social privileges that had of late been accorded to
military men. Unfortunately, if the wife of his bosom
was a quite authentic relative of the Guermantes,
she was also an extremely poor one, and, as he
himself had lost his fortune, they went scarcely
anywhere, and were the sort of people who were
apt to be overlooked except on great occasions,
when they had the good fortune to bury or marry a
relative. Then, they did really enter into communion
with the world of fashion, like those nominal
Catholics who approach the holy table but once in
the year. Their material situation would indeed have
been deplorable had not Mme. de Saint-Euverte,
faithful to her affection for the late General de
Froberville, done everything to help the household,
providing frocks and entertainments for the two
girls. But the Colonel, though generally considered a
good fellow, had not the spirit of gratitude. He was
envious of the splendours of a benefactress who
extolled them herself without pause or measure.
The annual garden party was for him, his wife and


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children a marvellous pleasure which they would not
have missed for all the gold in the world, but a
pleasure poisoned by the thought of the joys of
satisfied pride that Mme. de Saint-Euverte derived
from it. The accounts of this garden party in the
newspapers, which, after giving detailed reports,
would add with Machiavellian guile: "We shall refer
again to this brilliant gathering," the complementary
details of the women's costume, appearing for
several days in succession, all this was so obnoxious
to the Frobervilles, that they, cut off from most
pleasures and knowing that they could count upon
the pleasure of this one afternoon, were moved
every year to hope that bad weather would spoil the
success of the party, to consult the barometer and
to anticipate with ecstasy the threatenings of a
storm that might ruin everything.


       "I       shall           not         discuss              politics             with          you,
Froberville," said M. de Guermantes, "but, so far as
Swann is concerned, I can tell you frankly that his
conduct towards ourselves has been beyond words.


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Introduced into society, in the past, by ourselves, by
the Duc de Chartres, they tell me now that he is
openly a Dreyfusard. I should never have believed it
of him, an epicure, a man of practical judgment, a
collector, who goes in for old books, a member of
the Jockey, a man who enjoys the respect of all that
know him, who knows all the good addresses, and
used to send us the best port wine you could wish to
drink, a dilettante, the father of a family. Oh! I have
been greatly deceived. I do not complain for myself,
it is understood that I am only an old fool, whose
opinion counts for nothing, mere rag tag and
bobtail, but if only for Oriane's sake, he ought to
have openly disavowed the Jews and the partisans
of the man Dreyfus.


       "Yes, after the friendship my wife has always
shewn him," went on the Duke, who evidently
considered that to denounce Dreyfus as guilty of
high treason, whatever opinion one might hold in
one's own conscience as to his guilt, constituted a
sort of thank-offering for the manner in which one


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had been received in the Faubourg Saint-Germain,
"he ought to have disassociated himself. For, you
can ask Oriane, she had a real friendship for him."
The Duchess, thinking that an ingenuous, calm tone
would give a more dramatic and sincere value to her
words, said in a schoolgirl voice, as though she were
simply letting the truth fall from her lips, merely
giving a slightly melancholy expression to her eyes:
"It is quite true, I have no reason to conceal the fact
that I did feel a sincere affection for Charles!"
"There, you see, I don't have to make her say it.
And after that, he carries his ingratitude to the point
of being a Dreyfusard!"


       "Talking of Dreyfusards," I said, "it appears,
Prince Von is one." "Ah, I am glad you reminded me
of him," exclaimed M. de Guermantes, "I was
forgetting that he had asked me to dine with him on
Monday. But whether he is a Dreyfusard or not is
entirely immaterial, since he is a foreigner. I don't
give two straws for his opinion. With a Frenchman,
it is another matter. It is true that Swann is a Jew.


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But, until to-day--forgive me, Fro-berville--I have
always been foolish enough to believe that a Jew
can be a Frenchman, that is to say, an honourable
Jew, a man of the world. Now, Swann was that in
every sense of the word. Ah, well! He forces me to
admit that I have been mistaken, since he has taken
the side of this Dreyfus (who, guilty or not, never
moved in his world, he cannot ever have met him)
against a society that had adopted him, had treated
him as one of ourselves. It goes without saying, we
were all of us prepared to vouch for Swann, I would
have answered for his patriotism as for my own. Ah!
He is rewarding us very badly: I must confess that I
should never have expected such a thing from him.
I    thought             better           of      him.         He        was         a      man           of
intelligence (in his own line, of course). I know that
he had already made that insane, disgraceful
marriage. By which token, shall I tell you some one
who was really hurt by Swann's marriage: my wife.
Oriane often has what I might call an affectation of
insensibility. But at heart she feels things with
extraordinary keenness." Mme. de Guermantes,


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delighted by this analysis of her character, listened
to it with a modest air but did not utter a word, from
a scrupulous reluctance to acquiesce in it, but
principally from fear of cutting it short. M. de
Guermantes might have gone on talking for an hour
on this subject, she would have sat as still, or even
stiller than if she had been listening to music. "Very
well! I remember, when she heard of Swann's
marriage, she felt hurt; she considered that it was
wrong in a person to whom we had given so much
friendship. She was very fond of Swann; she was
deeply grieved. Am I not right, Oriane?" Mme. de
Guermantes felt that she ought to reply to so direct
a challenge, upon a point of fact, which would allow
her, unobtrusively, to confirm the tribute which, she
felt, had come to an end. In a shy and simple tone,
and with an air all the more studied in that it sought
to shew genuine 'feeling,' she said with a meek
reserve, "It is true, Basin is quite right." "Still, that
was not quite the same. After all, love is love,
although, in my opinion, it ought to confine itself
within certain limits. I might excuse a young fellow,


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a mere boy, for letting himself be caught by an
infatuation. But Swann, a man of intelligence, of
proved refinement, a good judge of pictures, an
intimate friend of the Duc de Chartres, of Gilbert
himself!" The tone in which M. de Guermantes said
this was, for that matter, quite inoffensive, without
a trace of the vulgarity which he too often shewed.
He spoke with a slightly indignant melancholy, but
everything about him was steeped in that gentle
gravity which constitutes the broad and unctuous
charm of certain portraits by Rembrandt, that of the
Burgomaster Six, for example.                                          One felt that the
question of the immorality of Swann's conduct with
regard to 'the Case' never even presented itself to
the Duke, so confident was he of the answer; it
caused him the grief of a father who sees one of his
sons, for whose education he has made the utmost
sacrifices, deliberately ruin the magnificent position
he has created for him and dishonour, by pranks
which the principles or prejudices of his family
cannot allow, a respected name. It is true that M. de
Guermantes had not displayed so profound and


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pained an astonishment when he learned that Saint-
Loup was a Dreyfusard. But, for one thing, he
regarded his nephew as a young man gone astray,
as to whom nothing, until he began to mend his
ways, could be surprising, whereas Swann was what
M. de Guermantes called 'a man of weight, a man
occupying a position in the front rank.' Moreover
and above all, a considerable interval of time had
elapsed during which, if, from the historical point of
view, events had, to some extent, seemed to justify
the       Dreyfusard                  argument,                  the         anti-Dreyfusard
opposition had doubled its violence, and, from being
purely political, had become social. It was now a
question of militarism, of patriotism, and the waves
of anger that had been stirred up in society had had
time to gather the force which they never have at
the beginning of a storm. "Don't you see," M. de
Guermantes went on, "even from the point of view
of      his       beloved              Jews,           since          he        is      absolutely
determined to stand by them, Swann has made a
blunder of an incalculable magnitude. He has shewn
that they are to some extent forced to give their


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support to anyone of their own race, even if they do
not know him personally. It is a public danger. We
have evidently been too easy going, and the
mistake Swann is making will create all the more
stir since he was respected, not to say received, and
was almost the only Jew that anyone knew. People
will say: Ab uno disce omnes." (His satisfaction at
having hit, at the right moment, in his memory,
upon so apt a quotation, alone brightened with a
proud smile the melancholy of the great nobleman
conscious of betrayal.)


       I     was         longing             to      know           what           exactly            had
happened between the Prince and Swann, and to
catch the latter, if he had not already gone home. "I
don't mind telling you," the Duchess answered me
when I spoke to her of this desire, "that I for my
part am not overanxious to see him, because it
appears, by what I was told just now at Mme. de
Saint-Euverte's, that he would like me before he
dies to make the acquaintance of his wife and
daughter. Good heavens, it distresses me terribly


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that he should be ill, but, I must say, I hope it is not
so serious as all that. And besides, it is not really a
reason at all, because if it were it would be so
childishly simple. A writer with no talent would have
only to say: 'Vote for me at the Academy because
my wife is dying and I wish to give her this last
happiness.' There would be no more entertaining if
one was obliged to make friends with all the dying
people. My coachman might come to me with: 'My
daughter is seriously ill, get me an invitation to the
Princesse de Parme's.' I adore Charles, and I should
hate having to refuse him, and so that is why I
prefer to avoid the risk of his asking me. I hope with
all my heart that he is not dying, as he says, but
really, if it has to happen, it would not be the
moment for me to make the acquaintance of those
two creatures who have deprived me of the most
amusing of my friends for the last fifteen years, with
the additional disadvantage that I should not even
be able to make use of their society to see him,
since he would be dead!"



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       Meanwhile M. de Bréauté had not ceased to
ruminate the contradiction of his story by Colonel de
Froberville. "I do not question the accuracy of your
version, my dear fellow," he said, "but I had mine
from a good source. It was the Prince de la Tour
d'Auvergne who told me."


       "I am surprised that an educated man like
yourself            should             still       say         'Prince           de        la       Tour
d'Auvergne,'" the Duc de Guermantes broke in, "you
know that he is nothing of the kind. There is only
one member of that family left. Oriane's uncle, the
Duc de Bouillon."


       "The brother of Mme. de Villeparisis?" I asked,
remembering that she had been Mlle, de Bouillon.
"Precisely. Oriane, Mme. de Lambresac is bowing to
you." And indeed, one saw at certain moments form
and fade like a shooting star a faint smile directed
by the Duchesse de Lambresac at somebody whom
she had recognised. But this smile, instead of taking
definite shape in an active affirmation, in a language


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mute but clear, was drowned almost immediately in
a sort of ideal ecstasy which expressed nothing,
while her head drooped in a gesture of blissful
benediction, recalling the inclination towards the
crowd of communicants of the head of a somewhat
senile prelate. There was not the least trace of
senility about Mme. de Lambresac. But I was
acquainted already with this special type of old-
fashioned distinction. At Combray and in Paris, all
my grandmother's friends were in the habit of
greeting one another at a social gathering with as
seraphic an air as if they had caught sight of some
one of their acquaintance in church, at the moment
of the Elevation or during a funeral, and were
casting him a gentle 'Good morning' which ended in
prayer. At this point a remark made by M. de
Guermantes was to complete the likeness that I was
tracing. "But you have seen the Duc de Bouillon," he
said to me. "He was just going out of my library this
afternoon as you came in, a short person with white
hair." It was the person whom I had taken for a
man of business from Combray, and yet, now that I


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came to think it over, I could see the resemblance
to Mme. de Villeparisis. The similarity between the
evanescent greetings of the Duchesse de Lambresac
and those of my grandmother's friends had first
aroused my interest, by shewing me how in all
narrow and exclusive societies, be they those of the
minor gentry or of the great nobility, the old
manners persist, allowing us to recapture, like an
archaeologist, what might have been the standard
of upbringing, and the side of life which it reflects, in
the days of the Vicomte d'Arlincourt and Loïsa
Puget. Better still now, the perfect conformity in
appearance                 between               a      man          of      business               from
Combray of his generation and the Duc de Bouillon
reminded me of what had already struck me so
forcibly when I had seen Saint-Loup's maternal
grandfather, the Duc de La Rochefoucauld, in a
daguerreotype in which he was exactly similar, in
dress, air and manner, to my great-uncle, that
social, and even individual differences are merged
when seen from a distance in the uniformity of an
epoch. The truth is that the similarity of dress, and


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also the reflexion, from a person's face, of the spirit
of his age occupy so much more space than his
caste, which bulks largely only in his own self-
esteem and the imagination of other people, that in
order to discover that a great nobleman of the time
of Louis Philippe differs less from a citizen of the
time of Louis Philippe than from a great nobleman of
the time of Louis XV, it is not necessary to visit the
galleries of the Louvre.


       At that moment, a Bavarian musician with long
hair, whom the Princesse de Guermantes had taken
under her wing, bowed to Oriane. She responded
with an inclination of her head, but the Duke,
furious at seeing his wife bow to a person whom he
did not know, who had a curious style, and, so far
as M. de Guermantes understood, an extremely bad
reputation, turned upon his wife with a terrible
inquisitorial air, as much as to say: "Who in the
world           is       that           Ostrogoth?"                    Poor            Mme.             de
Guermantes's                     position              was           already               distinctly
complicated, and if the musician had felt a little pity


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for this martyred wife, he would have made off as
quickly as possible. But, whether from a desire not
to remain under the humiliation that had just been
inflicted on him in public, before the eyes of the
Duke's oldest and most intimate friends, whose
presence there had perhaps been responsible to
some extent for his silent bow, and to shew that it
was on the best of grounds and not without knowing
her already that he had greeted the Duchesse de
Guermantes, or else in obedience to the obscure but
irresistible impulse to commit a blunder which drove
him--at a moment when he ought to have trusted to
the spirit--to apply the whole letter of the law, the
musician came closer to Mme. de Guermantes and
said to her: "Madame la Duchesse, I should like to
request the honour of being presented to the Duke."
Mme. de Guermantes was indeed in a quandary. But
after all, she might well be a forsaken wife, she was
still Duchesse de Guermantes and could not let
herself          appear             to      have          forfeited             the        right         to
introduce to her husband the people whom she
knew. "Basin," she said, "allow me to present to you


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M. d'Herweck."


       "I need not ask whether you are going to
Madame de Saint-Euverte's to-morrow," Colonel de
Froberville said to Mme. de Guermantes, to dispel
the painful impression produced by M. d'Herweck's
ill-timed request. "The whole of Paris will be there."
Meanwhile, turning with a single movement and as
though he were carved out of a solid block towards
the indiscreet musician, the Duc de Guermantes,
fronting his suppliant, monumental, mute, wroth,
like Jupiter Tonans, remained motionless like this for
some seconds, his eyes ablaze with anger and
astonishment, his waving locks seeming to issue
from a crater. Then, as though carried away by an
impulse which alone enabled him to perform the act
of politeness that was demanded of him, and after
appearing by his attitude of defiance to be calling
the entire company to witness that he did not know
the Bavarian musician, clasping his white-gloved
hands behind his back, he jerked his body forward
and bestowed upon the musician a bow so profound,


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instinct with such stupefaction and rage, so abrupt,
so      violent,            that        the         trembling               artist          recoiled,
stooping as he went, so as not to receive a
formidable butt in the stomach. "Well, the fact is, I
shall not be in Paris," the Duchess answered Colonel
de Froberville. "I may as well tell you (though I
ought to be ashamed to confess such a thing) that I
have lived all these years without seeing the
windows at Montfort-l'Amaury.                                        It is shocking, but
there it is. And so, to make amends for my shameful
ignorance, I decided that I would go and see them
to-morrow." M. de Bréauté smiled a subtle smile. He
quite understood that, if the Duchess had been able
to live all these years without seeing the windows at
Montfort-l'Amaury, this artistic excursion did not all
of a sudden take on the urgent character of an
expedition 'hot-foot' and might without danger, after
having been put off for more than twenty-five years,
be retarded for twenty-four hours. The plan that the
Duchess had formed was simply the Guermantes
way of issuing the decree that the Saint-Euverte
establishment was definitely not a 'really nice'


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house, but a house to which you were invited that
you might be utilised afterwards in the account in
the Gaulois, a house that would set the seal of
supreme smartness upon those, or at any rate upon
her (should there be but one) who did not go to it.
The delicate amusement of M. de Bréauté, enhanced
by that poetical pleasure which people in society felt
when they saw Mme. de Guermantes do things
which their own inferior position did not allow them
to imitate, but the mere sight of which brought to
their lips the smile of the peasant thirled to the soil
when he sees freer and more fortunate men pass by
above his head, this delicate pleasure could in no
way be compared with the concealed but frantic
ecstasy that was at once felt by M. de Froberville.


       The efforts that this gentleman was making so
that people should not hear his laughter had made
him turn as red as a turkey-cock, in spite of which it
was only with a running interruption of hiccoughs of
joy that he exclaimed in a pitying tone: "Oh! Poor
Aunt Saint-Euverte, she will take to her bed! No!


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The unhappy woman is not to have her Duchess,
what a blow, why, it is enough to kill her!" he went
on, convulsed with laughter. And in his exhilaration
he could not help stamping his feet and rubbing his
hands. Smiling out of one eye and with the corner of
her       lips       at      M.        de       Froberville,                whose            amiable
intention she appreciated, but found the deadly
boredom of his society quite intolerable, Mme. de
Guermantes decided finally to leave him.


       "Listen, I shall be obliged to bid you good
night," she said to him as she rose with an air of
melancholy resignation, and as though it had been a
bitter grief to her. Beneath the magic spell of her
blue eyes her gently musical voice made one think
of the poetical lament of a fairy. "Basin wants me to
go and talk to Marie for a little." In reality, she was
tired of listening to Froberville, who did not cease to
envy her her going to Montfort-l'Amaury, when she
knew quite well that he had never heard of the
windows before in his life, nor for that matter would
he for anything in the world have missed going to


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the Saint-Euverte party. "Good-bye, I've barely said
a word to you, it is always like that at parties, we
never see the people, we never say the things we
should like to say, but it is the same everywhere in
this life. Let us hope that when we are dead things
will be better arranged. At any rate, we shall not
always be having to put on low dresses. And yet,
one never knows. We may perhaps have to display
our bones and worms on great occasions. Why not?
Look, there goes old Rampillon, do you see any
great difference between her and a skeleton in an
open dress? It is true that she has every right to
look like that, for she must be at least a hundred.
She was already one of those sacred monsters
before whom I refused to bow the knee when I
made my first appearance in society. I thought she
had been dead for years; which for that matter
would be the only possible explanation of the
spectacle             she         presents.                It      is      impressive                 and
liturgical; quite Camposanto!" The Duchess had
moved away from Froberville; he came after her:
"Just one word in your ear." Slightly annoyed: "Well,


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what is it now?" she said to him stiffly. And he,
having been afraid lest, at the last moment, she
might change her mind about Montfort-l'Amaury: "I
did not like to mention it for Mme. de Saint-
Euverte's sake, so as not to get her into trouble, but
since you don't intend to be there, I may tell you
that I am glad for your sake, for she has measles in
the house!" "Oh, good gracious!" said Oriane, who
had a horror of illnesses. "But that wouldn't matter
to me, I've had them already. You can't get them
twice." "So the doctors say; I know people who've
had them four times. Anyhow, you are warned." As
for himself, these fictitious measles would have
needed to attack him in reality and to chain him to
his bed before he would have resigned himself to
missing the Saint-Euverte party to which he had
looked forward for so many months. He would have
the pleasure of seeing so many smart people there!
The still greater pleasure of remarking that certain
things had gone wrong, and the supreme pleasures
of being able for long afterwards to boast that he
had         mingled                with           the          former              and,            while


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exaggerating or inventing them, of deploring the
latter.


       I took advantage of the Duchess's moving to
rise also in order to make my way to the smoking-
room and find out the truth about Swann. "Do not
believe a word of what Babal told us," she said to
me. "Little Molé would never poke her nose into a
place like that. They tell us that to draw us. Nobody
ever goes to them and they are never asked
anywhere either.                       He admits it himself: 'We spend
the evenings alone by our own fireside.' As he
always says we, not like royalty, but to include his
wife, I do not press him. But I know all about it,"
the Duchess added. We passed two young men
whose great and dissimilar beauty took its origin
from one and the same woman. They were the two
sons of Mme. de Surgis, the latest mistress of the
Duc de Guermantes. Both were resplendent with
their mother's perfections, but each in his own way.
To one had passed, rippling through a virile body,
the royal presence of Mme. de Surgis and the same


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pallor, ardent, flushed and sacred, flooded the
marble cheeks of mother and son; but his brother
had received the Grecian brow, the perfect nose, the
statuesque                throat,           the        eyes          of      infinite           depth;
composed thus of separate gifts, which the goddess
had shared between them, their twofold beauty
offered one the abstract pleasure of thinking that
the cause of that beauty was something outside
themselves; one would have said that the principal
attributes of their mother were incarnate in two
different bodies; that one of the young men was his
mother's stature and her complexion, the other her
gaze, like those divine beings who were no more
than the strength and beauty of Jupiter or Minerva.
Full of respect for M. de Guermantes, of whom they
said: "He is a great friend of our parents," the elder
nevertheless thought that it would be wiser not to
come up and greet the Duchess, of whose hostility
towards his mother he was aware, though without
perhaps understanding the reason for it, and at the
sight of us he slightly averted his head. The
younger, who copied his brother in everything,


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because, being stupid and short-sighted to boot, he
did not venture to own a personal opinion, inclined
his head at the same angle, and the pair slipped
past us towards the card-room, one behind the
other, like a pair of allegorical figures.


       Just as I reached this room, I was stopped by
the Marquise de Citri, still beautiful but almost
foaming at the mouth. Of decently noble birth, she
had sought and made a brilliant match in marrying
M. de Citri, whose great-grandmother had been an
Aumale-Lorraine. But no sooner had she tasted this
satisfaction than her natural cantankerousness gave
her a horror of people in society which did not cut
her off absolutely from social life.                                          Not only, at a
party, did she deride everyone present, her derision
of them was so violent that mere laughter was not
sufficiently bitter, and changed into a guttural hiss.
"Ah!" she said to me, pointing to the Duchesse de
Guermantes who had now left my side and was
already some way off, "what defeats me is that she
can lead this sort of existence." Was this the speech


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of a righteously indignant Saint, astonished that the
Gentiles did not come of their own accord to
perceive the Truth, or that of an anarchist athirst for
carnage? In any case there could be no possible
justification for this apostrophe. In the first place,
the 'existence led' by Mme. de Guermantes differed
hardly perceptibly (except in indignation) from that
led by Mme. de Citri. Mme. de Citri was stupefied
when she saw the Duchess capable of that mortal
sacrifice:            attendance                  at      one         of       Marie-Gilbert's
parties. It must be said in this particular instance
that Mme. de Citri was genuinely fond of the
Princess, who was indeed the kindest of women,
and knew that, by attending her party, she was
giving her great pleasure. And so she had put off, in
order to come to the party, a dancer whom she
regarded as a genius, and who was to have initiated
her into the mysteries of Russian choreography.
Another reason which to some extent stultified the
concentrated rage which Mme. de Citri felt on seeing
Oriane greet one or other of the guests was that
Mme. de Guermantes, albeit at a far less advanced


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stage, shewed the symptoms of the malady that
was devouring Mme. de Citri. We have seen,
moreover, that she had carried the germs of it from
her birth. In fact, being more intelligent than Mme.
de Citri, Mme.                       de Guermantes would have had
better right than she to this nihilism (which was
more than merely social), but it is true that certain
good qualities help us rather to endure the defects
of our neighbour than they make us suffer from
them; and a man of great talent will normally pay
less attention to other people's folly than would a
fool. We have already described at sufficient length
the nature of the Duchess's wit to convince the
reader that, if it had nothing in common with great
intellect, it was at least wit, a wit adroit in making
use (like a translator) of different grammatical
forms.          Now nothing of this sort seemed to entitle
Mme. de Citri to look down upon qualities so closely
akin to her own. She found everyone idiotic, but in
her conversation, in her letters, shewed herself
distinctly inferior to the people whom she treated
with such disdain. She had moreover such a thirst


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for destruction that, when she had almost given up
society, the pleasures that she then sought were
subjected, each in turn, to her terrible disintegrating
force. After she had given up parties for musical
evenings, she used to say: "You like listening to that
sort of thing, to music?                                      Good gracious, it all
depends on what it is. It can be simply deadly! Oh!
Beethoven! What a bore!" With Wagner, then with
Franck, Debussy, she did not even take the trouble
to say the word barbe, but merely passed her hand
over her face with a tonsorial gesture.


       Presently, everything became boring. "Beautiful
things are such a bore.                                      Oh! Pictures! They're
enough to drive one mad. How right you are, it is
such a bore having to write letters!" Finally it was
life itself that she declared to be rasante, leaving
her hearers to wonder where she applied the term.


       I do not know whether it was the effect of what
the Duchesse de Guermantes, on the evening when
I first dined at her house, had said of this interior,


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but the card--or smoking-room, with its pictorial
floor, its tripods, its figures of gods and animals that
gazed at you, the sphinxes stretched out along the
arms of the chairs, and most of all the huge table,
of     marble            or       enamelled                 mosaic,             covered              with
symbolical               signs          more            or       less         imitated              from
Etruscan and Egyptian art, gave me the impression
of a magician's cell. And, on a chair drawn up to the
glittering, augural table, M. de Charlus, in person,
never touching a card, unconscious of what was
going on round about him, incapable of observing
that I had entered the room, seemed precisely a
magician applying all the force of his will and reason
to drawing a horoscope. Not only that, but, like the
eyes of a Pythian on her tripod, his eyes were
starting from his head, and that nothing might
distract          him          from          labours             which           required              the
cessation of the most simple movements, he had
(like a calculator who will do nothing else until he
has solved his problem) laid down beside him the
cigar which he had previously been holding between
his       lips,        but         had          no        longer             the         necessary


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detachment of mind to think of smoking. Seeing the
two crouching deities borne upon the arms of the
chair that stood facing him, one might have thought
that the Baron was endeavouring to solve the
enigma of the Sphinx, had it not been that, rather,
of a young and living Oedipus, seated in that very
armchair, where he had come to join in the game.
Now, the figure to which M. de Charlus was applying
with such concentration all his mental powers, and
which was not, to tell the truth, one of the sort that
are commonly studied more geometrico, was that of
the proposition set him by the lineaments of the
young Comte de Surgis; it appeared, so profound
was M. de Charlus's absorption in front of it, to be
some rebus, some riddle, some algebraical problem,
of which he must try to penetrate the mystery or to
work out the formula. In front of him the sibylline
signs and the figures inscribed upon that Table of
the Law seemed the gramarye which would enable
the old sorcerer to tell in what direction the young
man's destiny was shaping. Suddenly he became
aware that I was watching him, raised his head as


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though he were waking from a dream, smiled at me
and blushed. At that moment Mme. de Surgis's
other son came up behind the one who was playing,
to look at his cards. When M. de Charlus had
learned from me that they were brothers, his
features could not conceal the admiration that he
felt for a family which could create masterpieces so
splendid and so diverse. And what added to the
Baron's enthusiasm was the discovery that the two
sons of Mme. de Surgis-le-Duc were sons not only
of the same mother but of the same father. The
children of Jupiter are dissimilar, but that is because
he married first Metis, whose destiny was to bring
into the world wise children, then Themis, and after
her Eurynome, and Mnemosyne, and Leto, and only
as a last resort Juno. But to a single father Mme. de
Surgis had borne these two sons who had each
received beauty from her, but a different beauty.


       I had at length the pleasure of seeing Swann
come into this room, which was very big, so big that
he did not at first catch sight of me. A pleasure


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mingled with sorrow, with a sorrow which the other
guests did not, perhaps, feel, their feeling consisting
rather in that sort of fascination which is exercised
by      the        strange             and         unexpected                   forms           of      an
approaching death, a death that a man already has,
in the popular saying, written on his face.                                                     And it
was with a stupefaction that was almost offensive,
into which entered indiscreet curiosity, cruelty, a
scrutiny at once quiet and anxious (a blend of suave
mari magno and memento quia pulvis, Robert would
have said), that all eyes were fastened upon that
face the cheeks of which had been so eaten away by
disease, like a waning moon, that, except at a
certain angle, the angle doubtless at which Swann
looked at himself, they stopped short like a flimsy
piece of scenery to which only an optical illusion can
add the appearance of solidity. Whether because of
the absence of those cheeks, no longer there to
modify it, or because arteriosclerosis, which also is a
form of intoxication, had reddened it, as would
drunkenness, or deformed it, as would morphine,
Swann's punchinello nose, absorbed for long years


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in an attractive face, seemed now enormous, tumid,
crimson, the nose of an old Hebrew rather than of a
dilettante Valois. Perhaps too in him, in these last
days, the race was making appear more pronounced
the physical type that characterises it, at the same
time as the sentiment of a moral solidarity with the
rest of the Jews, a solidarity which Swann seemed
to have forgotten throughout his life, and which,
one after another, his mortal illness, the Dreyfus
case and the anti-semitic propaganda had revived.
There are certain Israelites, superior people for all
that and refined men of the world, in whom there
remain in reserve and in the wings, ready to enter
at a given moment in their lives, as in a play, a
bounder and a prophet. Swann had arrived at the
age of the prophet. Certainly, with his face from
which, by the action of his disease, whole segments
had vanished, as when a block of ice melts and
slabs of it fall off bodily, he had greatly altered. But
I could not help being struck by the discovery how
far more he had altered in relation to myself. This
man, excellent, cultivated, whom I was far from


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annoyed at meeting, I could not bring myself to
understand how I had been able to invest him long
ago in a mystery so great that his appearance in the
Champs-Elysées used to make my heart beat so
violently that I was too bashful to approach his silk-
lined cape, that at the door of the flat in which such
a being dwelt I could not ring the bell without being
overcome by boundless emotion and dismay; all this
had vanished not only from his home, but from his
person, and the idea of talking to him might or
might not be agreeable to me, but had no effect
whatever upon my nervous system.


       And besides, how he had altered since that very
afternoon, when I had met him--after all, only a few
hours earlier--in the Duc de Guermantes's study.
Had he really had a scene with the Prince, and had
it left him crushed? The supposition was not
necessary. The slightest efforts that are demanded
of a person who is very ill quickly become for him an
excessive strain. He has only to be exposed, when
already tired, to the heat of a crowded drawing-


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room, for his countenance to decompose and turn
blue, as happens in a few hours with an overripe
pear or milk that is ready to turn. Besides, Swann's
hair was worn thin in patches, and, as Mme. de
Guermantes remarked, needed attention from the
furrier, looked as if it had been camphored, and
camphored badly. I was just crossing the room to
speak to Swann when unfortunately a hand fell upon
my shoulder.


       "Hallo, old boy, I am in Paris for forty-eight
hours. I called at your house, they told me you were
here, so that it is to you that my aunt is indebted for
the honour of my company at her party." It was
Saint-Loup.                I told him how greatly I admired the
house. "Yes, it makes quite a historic edifice.
Personally, I think it appalling. We mustn't go near
my uncle Palamède, or we shall be caught. Now that
Mme. Molé has gone (for it is she that is ruling the
roost just now), he is quite at a loose end. It seems
it was as good as a play, he never let her out of his
sight for a moment, and only left her when he had


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put her safely into her carriage. I bear my uncle no
ill will, only I do think it odd that my family council,
which has always been so hard on me, should be
composed of the very ones who have led giddy lives
themselves, beginning with the giddiest of the lot,
my uncle Charlus, who is my official guardian, has
had more women than Don Juan, and is still
carrying on in spite of his age. There was a talk at
one time of having me made a ward of court. I bet,
when all those gay old dogs met to consider the
question, and had me up to preach to me and tell
me that I was breaking my mother's heart, they
dared not look one another in the face for fear of
laughing. Just think of the fellows who formed the
council, you would think they had deliberately
chosen the biggest womanisers." Leaving out of
account M. de Charlus, with regard to whom my
friend's astonishment no longer seemed to me to be
justified, but for different reasons, and reasons
which,          moreover,                 were           afterwards                 to      undergo
modification in my mind, Robert was quite wrong in
finding it extraordinary that lessons in worldly


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wisdom should be given to a young man by people
who had done foolish things, or were still doing
them.


       Even if we take into account only atavism,
family likenesses, it is inevitable that the uncle who
delivers the lecture should have more or less the
same faults as the nephew whom he has been
deputed to scold. Nor is the uncle in the least
hypocritical in so doing, taken in as he is by the
faculty that people have of believing, in every fresh
experience, that 'this is quite different,' a faculty
which allows them to adopt artistic, political and
other errors without perceiving that they are the
same errors which they exposed, ten years ago, in
another school of painters, whom they condemned,
another            political           affair         which,            they         considered,
merited a loathing that they no longer feel, and
espouse those errors without recognising them in a
fresh disguise. Besides, even if the faults of the
uncle are different from those of the nephew,
heredity may none the less be responsible, for the


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effect does not always resemble the cause, as a
copy resembles its original, and even if the uncle's
faults are worse, he may easily believe them to be
less serious.


       When              M.          de          Charlus                made              indignant
remonstrances                     to       Robert,             who           moreover                was
unaware of his uncle's true inclinations, at that time,
and indeed if it had still been the time when the
Baron used to scarify his own inclinations, he might
perfectly well have been sincere in considering, from
the point of view of a man of the world, that Robert
was infinitely more to blame than himself. Had not
Robert, at the very moment when his uncle had
been deputed to make him listen to reason, come
within an inch of getting himself ostracised by
society, had he not very nearly been blackballed at
the Jockey, had he not made himself a public
laughing stock by the vast sums that he threw away
upon         a      woman               of      the        lowest            order,           by        his
friendships with people--authors, actors, Jews--not
one of whom moved in society, by his opinions,


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which were indistinguishable from those held by
traitors, by the grief he was causing to all his
relatives? In what respect could it be compared, this
scandalous existence, with that of M.                                                 de Charlus
who had managed, so far, not only to retain but to
enhance still further his position as a Guermantes,
being in society an absolutely privileged person,
sought after, adulated in the most exclusive circles,
and a man who, married to a Bourbon Princess, a
woman of eminence, had been able to ensure her
happiness, had shewn a devotion to her memory
more fervent, more scrupulous than is customary in
society, and had thus been as good a husband as a
son!


       "But are you sure that M. de Charlus has had all
those mistresses?" I asked, not, of course, with any
diabolical intent of revealing to Robert the secret
that I had surprised, but irritated, nevertheless, at
hearing him maintain an erroneous theory with so
much certainty and assurance. He merely shrugged
his shoulders in response to what he took for


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ingenuousness on my part. "Not that I blame him in
the least, I consider that he is perfectly right." And
he began to sketch in outline a theory of conduct
that would have horrified him at Balbec (where he
was not content with denouncing seducers, death
seeming to him then the only punishment adequate
to their crime). Then, however, he had still been in
love and jealous. He went so far as to sing me the
praises of houses of assignation. "They're the only
places where you can find a shoe to fit you, sheath
your weapon, as we say in the regiment." He no
longer felt for places of that sort the disgust that
had inflamed him at Balbec when I made an allusion
to them, and, hearing what he now said, I told him
that Bloch had introduced me to one, but Robert
replied that the one which Bloch frequented must be
"extremely mixed, the poor man's paradise!--It all
depends, though: where is it?" I remained vague,
for I had just remembered that it was the same
house at which one used to have for a louis that
Rachel whom Robert had so passionately loved.
"Anyhow, I can take you to some far better ones,


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full of stunning women." Hearing me express the
desire that he would take me as soon as possible to
the ones he knew, which must indeed be far
superior to the house to which Bloch had taken me,
he expressed a sincere regret that he could not, on
this occasion, as he would have to leave Paris next
day. "It will have to be my next leave," he said.
"You'll see, there are young girls there, even," he
added with an air of mystery. "There is a little
Mademoiselle de... I think it's d'Orgeville, I can let
you have the exact name, who is the daughter of
quite tip-top people; her mother was by way of
being a La Croix-l'Evêque, and they're a really
decent family, in fact they're more or less related, if
I'm not mistaken, to my aunt Oriane. Anyhow, you
have only to see the child, you can tell at once that
she comes of decent people" (I could detect,
hovering for a moment over Robert's voice, the
shadow of the genius of the Guermantes, which
passed like a cloud, but at a great height and
without stopping). "It seems to me to promise
marvellous developments. The parents are always ill


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and can't look after her. Gad, the child must have
some amusement, and I count upon you to provide
it!" "Oh! When are you coming back?" "I don't know,
if you don't absolutely insist upon Duchesses"
(Duchess being in aristocracy the only title that
denotes a particularly brilliant rank, as the lower
orders talk of 'Princesses'), "in a different class of
goods, there is Mme. Putbus's maid."


       At this moment, Mme. de Surgis entered the
room in search of her sons. As soon as he saw her
M. de Charlus went up to her with a friendliness by
which the Marquise was all the more agreeably
surprised, in that an icy frigidity was what she had
expected from the Baron, who had always posed as
Oriane's protector and alone of the family--the rest
being too often inclined to forgive the Duke his
irregularities by the glamour of his position and their
own jealousy of the Duchess--kept his brother's
mistresses pitilessly at a distance. And so Mme. de
Surgis had fully understood the motives of the
attitude that she dreaded to find in the Baron, but


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never for a moment suspected those of the wholly
different welcome that she did receive from him. He
spoke to her with admiration of the portrait that
Jacquet had painted of her years before. This
admiration waxed indeed to an enthusiasm which, if
it    was          partly           deliberate,                with         the         object            of
preventing               the        Marquise               from          going           away,            of
'hooking' her, as Robert used to say of enemy
armies when you seek to keep their effective
strength engaged at one point, might also be
sincere. For, if everyone was delighted to admire in
her sons the regal bearing and eyes of Mme. de
Surgis, the Baron could taste an inverse but no less
keen pleasure in finding those charms combined in
the mother, as in a portrait which does not by itself
excite          desire,             but         feeds           with           the         aesthetic
admiration that it does excite the desires that it
revives. These came now to give, in retrospect, a
voluptuous charm to Jacquet's portrait itself, and at
that        moment                 the         Baron            would             gladly           have
purchased                it     to       study            upon           its       surface             the
physiognomic pedigree of the two young Surgis.


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       "You see, I wasn't exaggerating," Robert said in
my ear. "Just look at the way my uncle is running
after Mme. de Surgis. Though I must say, that does
surprise me. If Oriane knew, she would be furious.
Really, there are enough women in the world
without his having to go and sprawl over that one,"
he went on; like everybody who is not in love, he
imagined that one chose the person whom one
loved after endless deliberations and on the strength
of various qualities and advantages. Besides, while
completely mistaken about his uncle, whom he
supposed to be devoted to women, Robert, in his
rancour, spoke too lightly of M. de Charlus. We are
not always somebody's nephew with impunity. It is
often        through              him         that         a      hereditary               habit          is
transmitted to us sooner or later. We might indeed
arrange a whole gallery of portraits, named like the
German comedy: Uncle and Nephew, in which we
should see the uncle watching jealously, albeit
unconsciously, for his nephew to end by becoming
like himself.


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       I go so far as to say that this gallery would be
incomplete were we not to include in it the uncles
who are not really related by blood, being the uncles
only of their nephews' wives. The Messieurs de
Charlus            are         indeed              so        convinced                 that         they
themselves are the only good husbands, what is
more the only husbands of whom their wives are not
jealous, that generally, out of affection for their
niece, they make her marry another Charlus. Which
tangles the skein of family likenesses. And, to
affection for the niece, is added at times affection
for her betrothed as well. Such marriages are not
uncommon, and are often what are called happy.


       "What were we talking about? Oh yes, that big,
fair girl, Mme. Put-bus's maid. She goes with
women too, but I don't suppose you mind that, I
can tell you frankly, I have never seen such a
gorgeous                creature."                 "I        imagine                her          rather
Giorgione?" "Wildly Giorgione! Oh, if I only had a
little time in Paris, what wonderful things there are


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to be done! And then, one goes on to the next. For
love is all rot, mind you, I've finished with all that."
I soon discovered, to my surprise, that he had
equally finished with literature, whereas it was
merely with regard to literary men that he had
struck me as being disillusioned at our last meeting.
("They're practically all a pack of scoundrels," he
had said to me, a saying that might be explained by
his justified resentment towards certain of Rachel's
friends.           They had indeed persuaded her that she
would never have any talent if she allowed 'Robert,
scion of an alien race' to acquire an influence over
her, and with her used to make fun of him, to his
face, at the dinners to which he entertained them.)
But in reality Robert's love of Letters was in no
sense profound, did not spring from his true nature,
was only a by-product of his love of Rachel, and he
had got rid of it, at the same time as of his horror of
voluptuaries and his religious respect for the virtue
of women.


       "There is something very strange about those


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two young men. Look at that curious passion for
gambling, Marquise," said M. de Charlus, drawing
Mme. de Surgis's attention to her own sons, as
though           he        were           completely                 unaware               of       their
identity. "They must be a pair of Orientals, they
have         certain            characteristic                   features,               they          are
perhaps Turks," he went on, so as both to give
further support to his feint of innocence and to
exhibit a vague antipathy, which, when in due
course it gave place to affability, would prove that
the latter was addressed to the young men solely in
their capacity as sons of Mme. de Surgis, having
begun only when the Baron discovered who they
were. Perhaps too M. de Charlus, whose insolence
was a natural gift which he delighted in exercising,
took advantage of the few moments in which he was
supposed not to know the name of these two young
men to have a little fun at Mme. de Surgis's
expense, and to indulge in his habitual sarcasm, as
Scapin takes advantage of his master's disguise to
give him a sound drubbing.



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       "They are my sons," said Mme. de Surgis, with a
blush which would not have coloured her cheeks had
she been more discerning, without necessarily being
more virtuous. She would then have understood
that the air of absolute indifference or of sarcasm
which M. de Charlus displayed towards a young man
was no more sincere than the wholly superficial
admiration which he shewed for a woman, did not
express his true nature. The woman to whom he
could         go        on        indefinitely                paying            the         prettiest
compliments might well be jealous of the look
which, while talking to her, he shot at a man whom
he would pretend afterwards not to have noticed.
For that look was not of the sort which M. de
Charlus kept for women; a special look, springing
from the depths, which even at a party could not
help straying innocently in the direction of the
young men, like the look in a tailor's eye which
betrays his profession by immediately fastening
upon your attire.


       "Oh, how very strange!" replied M. de Charlus,


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not without insolence, as though his mind had to
make a long journey to arrive at a reality so
different from what he had pretended to suppose.
"But I don't know them!" he added, fearing lest he
might have gone a little too far in the expression of
his       antipathy,                and         have           thus          paralysed                 the
Marquise's                intention               to       let        him          make             their
acquaintance. "Would you allow me to introduce
them to you?" Mme. de Surgis inquired timidly.
"Why, good gracious, just as you please, I shall be
delighted, I am perhaps not very entertaining
company for such young people," M. de Charlus
intoned with the air of hesitation and coldness of a
person who is letting himself be forced into an act of
politeness.


       "Arnulphe, Victurnien, come here at once," said
Mme. de Surgis. Vic-turnien rose with decision.
Arnulphe, though he could not see where his brother
was going, followed him meekly.


       "It's the sons' turn, now," muttered Saint-Loup.


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"It's enough to make one die with laughing. He tries
to curry favour with every one, down to the dog in
the yard. It is all the funnier, as my uncle detests
pretty boys.                   And just look how seriously he is
listening to them. If it had been I who tried to
introduce them to him, he would have given me
what for. Listen, I shall have to go and say how d'ye
do to Oriane. I have so little time in Paris that I
want to try and see all the people here that I ought
to leave cards on."


       "What a well-bred air they have, what charming
manners," M. de Charlus was saying. "You think
so?" Mme. de Surgis replied, highly delighted.


       Swann having caught sight of me came over to
Saint-Loup and myself. His Jewish gaiety was less
refined than his witticisms as a man of the world.
"Good evening," he said to us. "Heavens! All three
of us together, people will think it is a meeting of
the Syndicate. In another minute they'll be looking
for the safe!" He had not observed that M. de


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Beaucerfeuil was just behind his back and could
hear what he said. The General could not help
wincing. We heard the voice of M. de Charlus close
beside us: "What, you are called Victurnien, after
the Cabinet des Antiques," the Baron was saying, to
prolong his conversation with the two young men.
"By Balzac, yes," replied the elder Surgis, who had
never read a line of that novelist's work, but to
whom his tutor had remarked, a few days earlier,
upon the similarity of his Christian name and
d'Esgrignon's. Mme. de Surgis was delighted to see
her son shine, and at M. de Charlus's ecstasy before
such a display of learning.


       "It appears that Loubet is entirely on our side, I
have it from an absolutely trustworthy source,"
Swann informed Saint-Loup, but this time in a lower
tone so as not to be overheard by the General.
Swann had begun to find his wife's Republican
connexions more interesting now that the Dreyfus
case had become his chief preoccupation. "I tell you
this because I know that your heart is with us."


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       "Not quite to that extent; you are entirely
mistaken,"                was         Robert's              answer.              "It's         a      bad
business, and I'm sorry I ever had a finger in it. It
was no affair of mine. If it were to begin over again,
I should keep well clear of it. I am a soldier, and my
first duty is to support the Army. If you will stay
with M. Swann for a moment, I shall be back
presently, I must go and talk to my aunt." But I saw
that it was with Mlle. d'Ambresac that he went to
talk, and was distressed by the thought that he had
lied to me about the possibility of their engagement.
My mind was set at rest when I learned that he had
been introduced to her half an hour earlier by Mme.
de Marsantés, who was anxious for the marriage,
the Ambresacs being extremely rich.


       "At last," said M. de Charlus to Mme. de Surgis,
"I find a young man with some education, who has
read, who knows what is meant by Balzac. And it
gives me all the more pleasure to meet him where
that sort of thing has become most rare, in the


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house of one of my peers, one of ourselves," he
added, laying stress upon the words. It was all very
well for the Guermantes to profess to regard all men
as equal; on the great occasions when they found
themselves                  among              people              who           were           'born,'
especially if they were not quite so well born as
themselves, whom they were anxious and able to
flatter, they did not hesitate to trot out old family
memories. "At one time," the Baron went on, "the
word aristocrat meant the best people, in intellect,
in heart. Now, here is the first person I find among
pur-selves               who          has         ever         heard            of      Victurnien
d'Esgrignon. I am wrong in saying the first. There
are also a Polignac and a Montesquieu," added M. de
Charlus, who knew that this twofold association
must inevitably thrill the Marquise. "However, your
sons        have          every           reason             to      be       learned,              their
maternal grandfather had a famous collection of
eighteenth century stuff.                                I will shew you mine if
you will do me the pleasure of coming to luncheon
with me one day," he said to the young Victurnien.
"I can shew you an interesting edition of the Cabinet


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des Antiques with corrections in Balzac's own hand.
I shall be charmed to bring the two Victurniens face
to face."


       I could not bring myself to leave Swann. He had
arrived at that stage of exhaustion in which a sick
man's body becomes a mere retort in which we
study chemical reactions. His face was mottled with
tiny spots of Prussian blue, which seemed not to
belong to the world of living things, and emitted the
sort        of       odour             which,             at       school,             after           the
'experiments,' makes it so unpleasant to have to
remain in a 'science' classroom. I asked him
whether he had not had a long conversation with
the Prince de Guermantes and if he would tell me
what it had been about. "Yes," he said, "but go for a
moment first with M. de Charlus and Mme. de
Surgis, I shall wait for you here."


       Indeed, M. de Charlus, having suggested to
Mme. de Surgis that they should leave this room
which was too hot, and go and sit for a little in


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another, had invited not the two sons to accompany
their mother, but myself. In this way he made
himself appear, after he had successfully hooked
them, to have lost all interest in the two young
men. He was moreover paying me an inexpensive
compliment, Mme. de Surgis being in distinctly bad
odour.


       Unfortunately, no sooner had we sat down in an
alcove from which there was no way of escape than
Mme. de Saint-Euverte, a butt for the Baron's jibes,
came past. She, perhaps to mask or else openly to
shew her contempt for the ill will which she inspired
in M. de Charlus, and above all to shew that she was
on intimate terms with a woman who was talking so
familiarly            to       him,         gave           a      disdainfully                friendly
greeting to the famous beauty, who acknowledged
it, peeping out of the corner of her eye at M. de
Charlus with a mocking smile. But the alcove was so
narrow that Mme. de Saint-Euverte, when she tried
to continue, behind our backs, her canvass of her
guests for the morrow, found herself a prisoner, and


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had some difficulty in escaping, a precious moment
which M. de Charlus, anxious that his insolent wit
should shine before the mother of the two young
men, took good care not to let slip. A silly question
which           I       had          put          to        him,           without              malice
aforethought, gave him the opportunity for a hymn
of triumph of which the poor Saint-Euverte, almost
immobilised behind us, could not have lost a word.
"Would you believe it, this impertinent young man,"
he said, indicating me to Mme. de Surgis, "asked
me just now, without any sign of that modesty
which makes us keep such expeditions private, if I
was going to Mme. de Saint-Euverte's, which is to
say, I suppose, if I was suffering from the colic. I
should endeavour, in any case, to relieve myself in
some more comfortable place than the house of a
person           who,          if     my         memory                serves            me,          was
celebrating her centenary when I first began to go
about town, though not, of course, to her house.
And yet who could be more interesting to listen to?
What a host of historic memories, seen and lived
through in the days of the First Empire and the


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Restoration, and secret history too, which could
certainly have nothing of the 'saint' about it, but
must be decidedly 'verdant' if we are to judge by
the amount of kick still left in the old trot's shanks.
What would prevent me from questioning her about
those passionate times is the acuteness of my
olfactory organ. The proximity of the lady is enough.
I say to myself all at once: oh, good lord, some one
has broken the lid of my cesspool, when it is simply
the Marquise opening her mouth to emit some
invitation. And you can understand that if I had the
misfortune to go to her house, the cesspool would
be magnified into a formidable sewage-cart. She
bears a mystic name, though, which has always
made me think with jubilation, although she has
long since passed the date of her jubilee, of that
stupid line of poetry called deliquescent: 'Ah, green,
how green my soul was on that day....' But I require
a cleaner sort of verdure. They tell me that the
indefatigable old streetwalker gives 'garden-parties,'
I should describe them as 'invitations to explore the
sewers.' Are you going to wallow there?" he asked


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Mme. de Surgis, who this time was annoyed.
Wishing to pretend for the Baron's benefit that she
was not going, and knowing that she would give
days of her life rather than miss the Saint-Euverte
party, she got out of it by taking a middle course,
that is to say uncertainty. This uncertainty took so
clumsily amateurish, so sordidly material a form,
that M. de Charlus, with no fear of offending Mme.
de Surgis, whom nevertheless he was anxious to
please, began to laugh to shew her that 'it cut no ice
with him.'


       "I always admire people who make plans," she
said; "I often change mine at the last moment.
There is a question of a summer frock which may
alter everything. I shall act upon the inspiration of
the moment."


       For my part, I was furious at the abominable
little speech that M. de Charlus had just made. I
would have liked to shower blessings upon the giver
of garden-parties. Unfortunately, in the social as in


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the political world, the victims are such cowards that
one cannot for long remain indignant with their
tormentors.                 Mme.            de        Saint-Euverte,                     who          had
succeeded in escaping from the alcove to which we
were barring the entry, brushed against the Baron
inadvertently as she passed him, and, by a reflex
action of snobbishness which wiped out all her
anger, perhaps even in the hope of securing an
opening, at which this could not be the first attempt,
exclaimed: "Oh! I beg your pardon, Monsieur de
Charlus, I hope I did not hurt you," as though she
were kneeling before her lord and master. The latter
did not deign to reply save by a broad ironical smile,
and conceded only a "Good evening," which, uttered
as though he were only now made aware of the
Marquise's presence after she had greeted him, was
an insult the more. Lastly, with a supreme want of
spirit which pained me for her sake, Mme. de Saint-
Euverte came up to me and, drawing me aside, said
in my ear: "Tell me, what have I done to offend M.
de Charlus? They say that he doesn't consider me
smart enough for him," she said, laughing from ear


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to ear. I remained serious. For one thing, I thought
it stupid of her to appear to believe or to wish other
people to believe that nobody, really, was as smart
as herself. For another thing, people who laugh so
heartily at what they themselves have said, when it
is not funny, dispense us accordingly, by taking
upon themselves the responsibility for the mirth,
from joining in it.


       "Other people assure me that he is cross
because I do not invite him. But he does not give
me much encouragement. He seems to avoid me."
(This expression struck me as inadequate.) "Try to
find out, and come and tell me to-morrow. And if he
feels remorseful and wishes to come too, bring him.
I shall forgive and forget. Indeed, I shall be quite
glad to see him, because it will annoy Mme. de
Surgis. I give you a free hand. You have the most
perfect judgment in these matters and I do not wish
to appear to be begging my guests to come. In any
case, I count upon you absolutely."



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       It occurred to me that Swann must be getting
tired of waiting for me. I did not wish, moreover, to
be too late in returning home, because of Albertine,
and, taking leave of Mme. de Surgis and M. de
Charlus, I went in search of my sick man in the
card-room. I asked him whether what he had said to
the Prince in their conversation in the garden was
really what M. de Bréauté (whom I did not name)
had reported to us, about a little play by Bergotte.
He burst out laughing: "There is not a word of truth
in it, not one, it is entirely made up and would have
been an utterly stupid thing to say. Really, it is
unheard              of,        this         spontaneous                      generation                  of
falsehood.              I do not ask who it was that told you,
but it would be really interesting, in a field as limited
as this, to work back from one person to another
and find out how the story arose. Anyhow, what
concern can it be of other people, what the Prince
said to me? People are very inquisitive. I have never
been inquisitive, except when I was in love, and
when I was jealous. And a lot I ever learned! Are
you jealous?" I told Swann that I had never


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experienced jealousy, that I did not even know what
it was. "Indeed! I congratulate you. A little jealousy
is not at all a bad thing, from two points of view. For
one thing, because it enables people who are not
inquisitive to take an interest in the lives of others,
or of one other at any rate. And besides, it makes
one feel the pleasure of possession, of getting into a
carriage with a woman, of not allowing her to go
about by herself. But that occurs only in the very
first stages of the disease, or when the cure is
almost complete.                         In the interval, it is the most
agonising               torment.                However,                  even           the          two
pleasures I have mentioned, I must own to you that
I have tasted very little of them: the first, by the
fault of my own nature, which is incapable of
sustained              reflexion;               the         second,             by        force           of
circumstances, by the fault of the woman, I should
say the women, of whom I have been jealous. But
that makes no difference. Even when one is no
longer interested in things, it is still something to
have been interested in them; because it was
always for reasons which other people did not


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grasp. The memory of those sentiments is, we feel,
to be found only in ourselves; we must go back into
ourselves to study it. You mustn't laugh at this
idealistic jargon, what I mean to say is that I have
been very fond of life and very fond of art. Very
well! Now that I am a little too weary to live with
other people, those old sentiments, so personal and
individual, that I felt in the past, seem to me--it is
the mania of all collectors--very precious. I open my
heart to myself like a sort of showcase, and examine
one by one ever so many love affairs of which the
rest of the world can have known nothing. And of
this collection, to which I am now even more
attached than to my others, I say to myself, rather
as Mazarin said of his library, but still without any
keen regret, that it will be very tiresome to have to
leave it all. But, to come back to my conversation
with the Prince, I shall repeat it to one person only,
and that person is going to be yourself." My
attention was distracted by the conversation that M.
de Charlus, who had returned to the card-room, was
prolonging indefinitely close beside us. "And are you


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a reader too?                   What do you do?" he asked Comte
Arnulphe, who had never heard even the name of
Balzac.           But        his        short-sightedness,                         as       he       saw
everything very small, gave him the appearance of
seeing to great distances, so that, rare poetry in a
sculptural Greek god, there seemed to be engraved
upon his pupils remote, mysterious stars.


       "Suppose we took a turn in the garden, Sir," I
said to Swann, while Comte Arnulphe, in a lisping
voice which seemed to indicate that mentally at
least his development was incomplete, replied to M.
de Charlus with an artlessly obliging precision: "I,
oh, golf chiefly, tennis, football, running, polo I'm
really keen on." So Minerva, being subdivided,
ceased in certain cities to be the goddess of wisdom,
and incarnated part of herself in a purely sporting,
horse-loving deity, Athene Hippia. And he went to
Saint Moritz also to ski, for Pallas Trilogeneia
frequents              the         high          peaks            and          outruns              swift
horsemen. "Ah!" replied M. de Charlus with the
transcendent smile of the intellectual who does not


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even take the trouble to conceal his derision, but,
on the other hand, feels himself so superior to other
people and so far despises the intelligence of those
who         are          the         least          stupid,             that          he         barely
differentiates between them and the most stupid,
the moment they can be attractive to him in some
other way. While talking to Arnulphe, M. de Charlus
felt that by the mere act of addressing him he was
conferring upon him a superiority which everyone
else must recognise and envy. "No," Swann replied,
"I am too tired to walk about, let us sit down
somewhere in a corner, I cannot remain on my feet
any longer." This was true, and yet the act of
beginning to talk had already given him back a
certain vivacity. This was because, in the most
genuine exhaustion, there is, especially in neurotic
people, an element that depends upon attracting
their attention and is kept going only by an act of
memory. We at once feel tired as soon as we are
afraid of feeling tired, and, to throw off our fatigue,
it suffices us to forget about it. To be sure, Swann
was far from being one of those indefatigable


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invalids who, entering a room worn out and ready to
drop, revive in conversation like a flower in water
and are able for hours on end to draw from their
own words a reserve of strength which they do not,
alas, communicate to their hearers, who appear
more and more exhausted the more the talker
comes back to life. But Swann belonged to that
stout        Jewish            race,          in      whose            vital        energy,              its
resistance to death, its individual members seem to
share. Stricken severally by their own diseases, as it
is stricken itself by persecution, they continue
indefinitely to struggle against terrible suffering
which may be prolonged beyond every apparently
possible limit, when already one sees nothing more
than a prophet's beard surmounted by a huge nose
which dilates to inhale its last breath, before the
hour strikes for the ritual prayers and the punctual
procession begins of distant relatives advancing with
mechanical movements, as upon an Assyrian frieze.


       We went to sit down, but, before moving away
from the group formed by M. de Charlus with the


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two young Surgis and their mother, Swann could
not resist fastening upon the lady's bosom the slow
expansive concupiscent gaze of a connoisseur. He
put up his monocle, for a better view, and, while he
talked to me, kept glancing in the direction of the
lady. "This is, word for word," he said to me when
we were seated, "my conversation with the Prince,
and if you remember what I said to you just now,
you will see why I choose you as my confidant.
There is another reason as well, which you shall one
day        learn.--'My                 dear          Swann,'               the         Prince           de
Guermantes said to me, 'you must forgive me if I
have appeared to be avoiding you for some time
past.' (I had never even noticed it, having been ill
and avoiding society myself.) 'In the first place, I
had heard it said that, as I fully expected, in the
unhappy affair which is splitting the country in two
your views were diametrically opposed to mine.
Now, it would have been extremely painful to me to
have to hear you express them. So sensitive were
my nerves that when the Princess, two years ago,
heard her brother-in-law, the Grand Duke of Hesse,


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say that Dreyfus was innocent, she was not content
with promptly denying the assertion but refrained
from repeating it to me in order not to upset me.
About the same time, the Crown Prince of Sweden
came to Paris and, having probably heard some one
say that the Empress Eugénie was a Dreyfusist,
confused her with the Princess (a strange confusion,
you will admit, between a woman of the rank of my
wife and a Spaniard, a great deal less well born than
people           make             out,         and          married               to       a       mere
Bonaparte), and said to her: Princess, I am doubly
glad to meet you, for I know that you hold the same
view as myself of the Dreyfus case, which does not
surprise me since Your Highness is Bavarian. Which
drew down upon the Prince the answer: Sir, I am
nothing now but a French Princess, and I share the
views of all my fellow-countrymen. Now, my dear
Swann, about eighteen months ago, a conversation
I had with General de Beaucerfeuil made me
suspect that not an error, but grave illegalities had
been committed in the procedure of the trial.'"



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       We were interrupted (Swann did not wish people
to overhear his story) by the voice of M. de Charlus
who (without, as it happened, paying us the
slightest attention) came past escorting Mme. de
Surgis, and stopped in the hope of detaining her for
a moment longer, whether on account of her sons or
from that reluctance common to all the Guermantes
to bring anything to an end, which kept them
plunged in a sort of anxious inertia.                                                          Swann
informed me, in this connexion, a little later, of
something that stripped the name Surgis-le-Duc, for
me, of all the poetry that I had found in it. The
Marquise de Surgis-le-Duc boasted a far higher
social position, far finer connexions by marriage
than her cousin the Comte de Surgis, who had no
money and lived on his estate in the country. But
the words that ended her title "le Duc" had not at all
the origin which I ascribed to them, and which had
made me associate it in my imagination with Bourg-
l'Abbé, Bois-le-Roi, etc. AH that had happened was
that a Comte de Surgis had married, during the
Restoration, the daughter of an immensely rich


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industrial magnate, M. Leduc, or Le Duc, himself the
son of a chemical manufacturer, the richest man of
his day, and a Peer of France. King Charles X had
created for the son born of this marriage the
Marquisate of Surgis-le-Duc, a Marquisate of Surgis
existing already in the family. The addition of the
plebeian surname had not prevented this branch
from allying itself, on the strength of its enormous
fortune, with the first families of the realm. And the
present            Marquise               de        Surgis-le-Duc,                     herself            of
exalted birth, might have moved in the very highest
circles. A demon of perversity had driven her,
scorning the position ready made for her, to flee
from the conjugal roof, to live a life of open scandal.
Whereupon the world which she had scorned at
twenty, when it was at her feet, had cruelly failed
her at thirty, when, after ten years, everybody,
except a few faithful friends, had ceased to bow to
her, and she set to work to reconquer laboriously,
inch       by inch,                what          she         had         possessed                as       a
birthright. (An outward and return journey which
are not uncommon.)


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       As for the great nobles, her kinsmen, whom she
had disowned in the past, and who in their turn had
now disowned her, she found an excuse for the joy
that she would feel in gathering them again to her
bosom in the memories of childhood that they would
be able to recall. And in so saying, to cloak her
snobbishness, she was perhaps less untruthful than
she supposed. "Basin is all my girlhood!" she said
on the day on which he came back to her. And as a
matter of fact there was a grain of truth in the
statement. But she had miscalculated when she
chose him for her lover. For all the women friends of
the Duchesse de Guermantes were to rally round
her, and so Mme. de Surgis must descend for the
second time that slope up which she had so
laboriously toiled. "Well!" M. de Charlus was saying
to her, in his attempt to prolong the conversation.
"You will lay my tribute at the feet of the beautiful
portrait. How is it? What has become of it?" "Why,"
replied Mme. de Surgis, "you know I haven't got it
now; my husband wasn't pleased with it." "Not


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pleased! With one of the greatest works of art of our
time, equal to Nattier's Duchesse de Châteauroux,
and, moreover, perpetuating no less majestic and
heart-shattering a goddess. Oh! That little blue
collar! I swear, Vermeer himself never painted a
fabric more consummately, but we must not say it
too loud or Swann will fall upon us to avenge his
favourite             painter,             the         Master             of       Delft."            The
Marquise, turning round, addressed a smile and held
out her hand to Swann, who had risen to greet her.
But almost without concealment, whether in his
declining days he had lost all wish for concealment,
by indifference to opinion, or the physical power, by
the excitement of his desire and the weakening of
the control that helps us to conceal it, as soon as
Swann, on taking the Marquise's hand, saw her
bosom at close range and from above, he plunged
an attentive, serious, absorbed, almost anxious
gaze into the cavity of her bodice, and his nostrils,
drugged by the lady's perfume, quivered like the
wings of a butterfly about to alight upon a half-
hidden flower. He checked himself abruptly on the


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edge of the precipice, and Mme. de Surgis herself,
albeit annoyed, stifled a deep sigh, so contagious
can desire prove at times. "The painter was cross,"
she said to M. de Charlus, "and took it back. I have
heard that it is now at Diane de Saint-Euverte's." "I
decline to believe," said the Baron, "that a great
picture can have such bad taste."


       "He is talking to her about her portrait. I could
talk to her about that portrait just as well as
Charlus," said Swann, affecting a drawling, slangy
tone as he followed the retreating couple with his
gaze. "And I should certainly enjoy talking about it
more than Charlus," he added. I asked him whether
the things that were said about M. de Charlus were
true, in doing which I was lying twice over, for, if I
had no proof that anybody ever had said anything, I
had on the other hand been perfectly aware for
some hours past that what I was hinting at was
true. Swann shrugged his shoulders, as though I
had suggested something quite absurd. "It's quite
true that he's a charming friend. But, need I add,


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his      friendship               is     purely            platonic.             He        is      more
sentimental than other men, that is all; on the other
hand, as he never goes very far with women, that
has given a sort of plausibility to the idiotic rumours
to which you refer. Charlus is perhaps greatly
attached to his men friends, but you may be quite
certain that the attachment is only in his head and
in his heart. At last, we may perhaps be left in
peace           for        a       moment.                 Well,          the         Prince            de
Guermantes went on to say: 'I don't mind telling
you that this idea of a possible illegality in the
procedure of the trial was extremely painful to me,
because I have always, as you know, worshipped
the army; I discussed the matter again with the
General, and, alas, there could be no two ways of
looking at it. I don't mind telling you frankly that, all
this time, the idea that an innocent man might be
undergoing the most degrading punishment had
never even entered my mind.                                           But, starting from
this idea of illegality, I began to study what I had
always declined to read, and then the possibility
not, this time, of illegal procedure but of the


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prisoner's innocence began to haunt me. I did not
feel that I could talk about it to the Princess. Heaven
knows that she has become just as French as
myself. You may say what you like, from the day of
our marriage, I took such pride in shewing her our
country in all its beauty, and what to me is the most
splendid thing in it, our Army, that it would have
been too painful to me to tell her of my suspicions,
which involved, it is true, a few officers only. But I
come of a family of soldiers, I did not like to think
that officers could be mistaken. I discussed the case
again with Beaucerfeuil, he admitted that there had
been culpable intrigues, that the bordereau was
possibly not in Dreyfus's writing, but that an
overwhelming proof of his guilt did exist. This was
the Henry document.                               And, a few days later, we
learned that it was a forgery. After that, without
letting the Princess see me, I began to read the
Siècle and the Aurore every day; soon I had no
doubt left, it kept me awake all night. I confided my
distress to our friend, the abbé Poiré, who, I was
astonished to find, held the same conviction, and I


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got him to say masses for the intention of Dreyfus,
his unfortunate wife and their children. Meanwhile,
one morning as I was going to the Princess's room, I
saw her maid trying to hide something from me that
she had in her hand. I asked her, chaffingly, what it
was, she blushed and refused to tell me. I had the
fullest confidence in my wife, but this incident
disturbed me considerably (and the Princess too, no
doubt, who must have heard of it from her woman),
for my dear Marie barely uttered a word to me that
day at luncheon. I asked the abbé Poiré whether he
could say my mass for Dreyfus on the following
morning....' And so much for that!" exclaimed
Swann, breaking off his narrative. I looked up, and
saw the Duc de Guermantes bearing down upon us.
"Forgive me for interrupting you, boys. My lad," he
went on, addressing myself, "I am instructed to give
you a message from Oriane. Marie and Gilbert have
asked her to stay and have supper at their table
with only five or six other people: the Princess of
Hesse, Mme. de Ligné, Mme. de Tarente, Mme. de
Chevreuse, the Duchesse d'Arenberg. Unfortunately,


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we can't wait, we are going on to a little ball of
sorts." I was listening, but whenever we have
something definite to do at a given moment, we
depute a certain person who is accustomed to that
sort of duty to keep an eye on the clock and warn us
in time. This indwelling servant reminded me, as I
had asked him to remind me a few hours before,
that Albertine, who at the moment was far from my
thoughts, was to come and see me immediately
after the theatre. And so I declined the invitation to
supper. This does not mean that I was not enjoying
myself at the Princesse de Guermantes's. The truth
is that men can have several sorts of pleasure. The
true pleasure is that for which they abandon the
other. But the latter, if it is apparent, or rather if it
alone is apparent, may put people off the scent of
the other, reassure or mislead the jealous, create a
false impression. And yet, all that is needed to make
us sacrifice it to the other is a little happiness or a
little      suffering.                   Sometimes                   a      third         order           of
pleasures, more serious but more essential, does
not yet exist for us, in whom its potential existence


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is      indicated               only           by         its        arousing                regrets,
discouragement. And yet it is to these pleasures
that we shall devote ourselves in time to come. To
give an example of quite secondary importance, a
soldier in time of peace will sacrifice a social
existence to love, but, once war is declared (and
without there being any need to introduce the idea
of a patriotic duty), will sacrifice love to the passion,
stronger than love, for fighting. It was all very well
Swann's saying that he enjoyed telling me his story,
I could feel that his conversation with me, because
of the lateness of the hour, and because he himself
was too ill, was one of those fatigues at which those
who know that they are killing themselves by sitting
up late, by overexerting themselves, feel when they
return home an angry regret, similar to that felt at
the wild extravagance of which they have again
been guilty by the spendthrifts who will not, for all
that, be able to restrain themselves to-morrow from
throwing money out of the windows. After we have
passed a certain degree of enfeeblement, whether it
be caused by age or by ill health, all pleasure taken


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at the expense of sleep, in departure from our
habits,          every breach of the rules becomes                                                         a
nuisance.                The talker continues to talk, out of
politeness, from excitement, but he knows that the
hour at which he might still have been able to go to
sleep has already passed, and he knows also the
reproaches that he will heap upon himself during the
insomnia and fatigue that must ensue. Already,
moreover, even the momentary pleasure has come
to an end, body and brain are too far drained of
their strength to welcome with any readiness what
seems to the other person entertaining. They are
like a house on the morning before a journey or
removal, where visitors become a perfect plague, to
be received sitting upon locked trunks, with our
eyes on the clock. "At last we are alone," he said; "I
quite forget where I was. Oh yes, I had just told
you, hadn't I, that the Prince asked the abbé Poiré if
he could say his mass next day for Dreyfus. 'No, the
abbé informed me' (I say me to you," Swann
explained to me, "because it is the Prince who is
speaking, you understand?), 'for I have another


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mass that I have been asked to say for him to-
morrow as well.--What, I said to him, is there
another Catholic as well as myself who is convinced
of his innocence?--It appears so.--But this other
supporter's conviction must be of more recent
growth than mine.--Maybe, but this other was
making me say masses when you still believed
Dreyfus guilty.--Ah, I can see that it is not anyone
in our world.--On the contrary!--Indeed! There are
Dreyfusists among us, are there? You intrigue me; I
should like to unbosom myself to this rare bird, if I
know him.--You do know him.--His name?--The
Princesse de Guermantes. While I was afraid of
shocking the Nationalist opinions, the French faith of
my dear wife, she had been afraid of alarming my
religious opinions, my patriotic sentiments. But
privately she had been thinking as I did, though for
longer than I had. And what her maid had been
hiding as she went into her room, what she went
out to buy for her every morning, was the Aurore.
My dear Swann, from that moment I thought of the
pleasure that I should give you when I told you how


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closely akin my views upon this matter were to
yours; forgive me for not having done so sooner. If
you bear in mind that I had never said a word to the
Princess, it will not surprise you to be told that
thinking the same as yourself must at that time
have kept me farther apart from you than thinking
differently. For it was an extremely painful topic for
me to approach. The more I believe that an error,
that crimes even have been committed, the more
my heart bleeds for the Army. It had never occurred
to me that opinions like mine could possibly cause
you similar pain, until I was told the other day that
you were emphatically protesting against the insults
to     the        Army           and         against             the        Dreyfusists                 for
consenting to ally themselves with those who
insulted it. That settled it, I admit that it has been
most painful for me to confess to you what I think of
certain officers, few in number fortunately, but it is
a relief to me not to have to keep at arms' length
from you any longer, and especially that you should
quite understand that if I was able to entertain
other sentiments, it was because I had not a


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shadow of doubt as to the soundness of the verdict.
As soon as my doubts began, I could wish for only
one thing, that the mistake should be rectified.' I
must tell you that this speech of the Prince de
Guermantes moved me profoundly.                                                   If you knew
him as I do, if you could realise the distance he has
had to traverse in order to reach his present
position, you would admire him as he deserves. Not
that his opinion surprises me, his is such a
straightforward nature!" Swann was forgetting that
in the afternoon he had on the contrary told me that
people's opinions as to the Dreyfus case were
dictated by atavism. At the most he had made an
exception in favour of intelligence, because in Saint-
Loup it had managed to overcome atavism and had
made a Dreyfusard of him. Now he had just seen
that this victory had been of short duration and that
Saint-Loup had passed into the opposite camp. And
so it was to straightforwardness now that he
assigned the part which had previously devolved
upon intelligence. In reality we always discover
afterwards that our adversaries had a reason for


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being on the side they espoused, which has nothing
to do with any element of right that there may be
on that side, and that those who think as we do do
so because their intelligence, if their moral nature is
too base to be invoked, or their straightforwardness,
if their penetration is feeble, has compelled them.


       Swann now found equally intelligent anybody
who was of his opinion, his old friend the Prince de
Guermantes and my schoolfellow Bloch, whom
previously he had avoided and whom he now invited
to luncheon. Swann interested Bloch greatly by
telling him that the Prince de Guermantes was a
Dreyfusard. "We must ask him to sign our appeal for
Picquart; a name like his would have a tremendous
effect."          But         Swann,              blending              with         his        ardent
conviction as an Israelite the diplomatic moderation
of a man of the world, whose habits he had too
thoroughly acquired to be able to shed them at this
late hour, refused to allow Bloch to send the Prince
a circular to sign, even on his own initiative. "He
cannot do such a thing, we must not expect the


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impossible," Swann repeated. "There you have a
charming man who has travelled thousands of miles
to come over to our side. He can be very useful to
us. If he were to sign your list, he would simply be
compromising himself with his own people, would be
made to suffer on our account, might even repent of
his confidences and not confide in us again." Nor
was this all, Swann refused his own signature. He
felt that his name was too Hebraic not to create a
bad effect. Besides, even if he approved of all the
attempts to secure a fresh trial, he did not wish to
be mixed up in any way in the antimilitarist
campaign. He wore, a thing he had never done
previously, the decoration he had won as a young
militiaman, in '70, and added a codicil to his will
asking that, contrary to his previous dispositions, he
might be buried with the military honours due to his
rank as Chevalier of the Legion of Honour. A request
which assembled round the church of Combray a
whole squadron of those troopers over whose fate
Françoise used to weep in days gone by, when she
envisaged the prospect of a war. In short, Swann


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refused to sign Bloch's circular, with the result that,
if he passed in the eyes of many people as a
fanatical             Dreyfusard,                    my           friend            found             him
lukewarm,                 infected              with          Nationalism,                    and          a
militarist. Swann left me without shaking hands so
as not to be forced into a general leave-taking in
this room which swarmed with his friends, but said
to me: "You ought to come and see your friend
Gilberte. She has really grown up now and altered,
you would not know her. She would be so pleased!"
I was no longer in love with Gilberte. She was for
me like a dead person for whom one has long
mourned, then forgetfulness has come, and if she
were to be resuscitated, she could no longer find
any place in a life which has ceased to be fashioned
for her. I had no desire now to see her, not even
that desire to shew her that I did not wish to see
her which, every day, when I was in love with her, I
vowed to myself that I would flaunt before her,
when I should be in love with her no longer.


       And so, seeking now only to give myself, in


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Gilberte's eyes, the air of having longed with all my
heart to meet her again and of having been
prevented by circumstances of the kind called
"beyond our control" albeit they only occur, with any
certainty at least, when we have done nothing to
prevent            them,           so       far       from          accepting               Swann's
invitation with reserve, I would not let him go until
he had promised to explain in detail to his daughter
the mischances that had prevented and would
continue to prevent me from going to see her.
"Anyhow, I am going to write to her as soon as I go
home," I added. "But be sure you tell her it will be a
threatening letter, for in a month or two I shall be
quite free, and then let her tremble, for I shall be
coming to your house as regularly as in the old
days."


       Before parting from Swann, I said a word to him
about his health. "No, it is not as bad as all that," he
told me. "Still, as I was saying, I am quite worn out,
and I accept with resignation whatever may be in
store for me.                    Only, I must say that it would be


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most annoying to die before the end of the Dreyfus
case. Those scoundrels have more than one card up
their sleeves. I have no doubt of their being
defeated in the end, but still they are very powerful,
they          have            supporters                  everywhere.                     Just           as
everything is going on splendidly, it all collapses. I
should like to live long enough to see Dreyfus
rehabilitated and Picquart a colonel."


       When Swann had left, I returned to the great
drawing-room in which was to be found that
Princesse de Guermantes with whom I did not then
know that I was one day to be so intimate. Her
passion for M. de Charlus did not reveal itself to me
at first. I noticed only that the Baron, after a certain
date, and without having taken one of those sudden
dislikes, which were not surprising in him, to the
Princesse de Guermantes, while continuing to feel
for her just as strong an affection, a stronger
affection perhaps than ever, appeared worried and
annoyed whenever anyone mentioned her name to
him. He never included it now in his list of the


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people whom he wished to meet at dinner.


       It is true that before this time I had heard an
extremely malicious man about town say that the
Princess had completely changed, that she was in
love with M. de Charlus, but this slander had
appeared to me absurd and had made me angry. I
had indeed remarked with astonishment that, when
I was telling her something that concerned myself, if
M. de Charlus's name cropped up in the middle, the
Princess immediately screwed up her attention to
the narrower focus of a sick man who, hearing us
talk about ourselves, and listening, in consequence,
in a careless and distracted fashion, suddenly
realises that a name we have mentioned is that of
the disease from which he is suffering, which at
once interests and delights him. So, if I said to her:
"Why, M. de Charlus told me..." the Princess at once
gathered up the slackened reins of her attention.
And having on one occasion said in her hearing that
M. de Charlus had at that moment a warm regard
for a certain person, I was astonished to see appear


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in the Princess's eyes that momentary change of
colour, like the line of a fissure in the pupil, which is
due         to       a       thought               which             our         words             have
unconsciously aroused in the mind of the person to
whom we are talking, a secret thought that will not
find expression in words, but will rise from the
depths which we have stirred to the surface--altered
for an instant--of his gaze. But if my remark had
moved the Princess, I did not then suspect in what
fashion.


       Anyhow, shortly after this, she began to talk to
me about M. de Charlus, and almost without
ambiguity. If she made any allusion to the rumours
which a few people here and there were spreading
about the Baron, it was merely as though to absurd
and scandalous inventions. But, on the other hand,
she said: "I feel that any woman who fell in love
with a man of such priceless worth as Palamède
ought to have sufficient breadth of mind, enough
devotion, to accept him and understand him as a
whole, for what he is, to respect his freedom,


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humour his fancies, seek only to smooth out his
difficulties and console him in his griefs." Now, by
such a speech, vague as it was, the Princesse de
Guermantes revealed the weakness of the character
she was seeking to extol, just as M. de Charlus
himself did at times. Have I not heard him, over and
again, say to people who until then had been
uncertain whether or not he was being slandered:
"I, who have climbed many hills and crossed many
valleys in my life, who have known all manner of
people, burglars as well as kings, and indeed, I
must confess, with a slight preference for the
burglars, who have pursued beauty in all its forms,"
and so forth; and by these words which he thought
adroit, and in contradicting rumours the currency of
which no one suspected (or to introduce, from
inclination,              moderation,                    love         of       accuracy,                an
element of truth which he was alone in regarding as
insignificant), he removed the last doubts of some
of his hearers, inspired others, who had not yet
begun to doubt him, with their first. For the most
dangerous of all forms of concealment is that of the


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crime itself in the mind of the guilty party. His
permanent consciousness of it prevents him from
imagining how generally it is unknown, how readily
a complete lie would be accepted, and on the other
hand from realising at what degree of truth other
people will detect, in words which he believes to be
innocent, a confession. Not that he would not be
entirely wrong in seeking to hush it up, for there is
no vice that does not find ready support in the best
society, and one has seen a country house turned
upside down in order that two sisters might sleep in
adjoining rooms as soon as their hostess learned
that theirs was a more than sisterly affection. But
what revealed to me all of a sudden the Princess's
love was a trifling incident upon which I shall not
dwell here, for it forms part of quite another story,
in which M. de Charlus allowed a Queen to die
rather           than          miss           an         appointment                     with          the
hairdresser who was to singe his hair for the benefit
of an omnibus conductor who filled him with alarm.
However, to be done with the Princess's love, let us
say what the trifle was that opened my eyes. I was,


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on the day in question, alone with her in her
carriage.              As we were passing a post office she
stopped the coachman. She had come out without a
footman. She half drew a letter from her muff and
was preparing to step down from the carriage to put
it into the box. I tried to stop her, she made a show
of     resistance,                and         we        both         realised             that         our
instinctive                  movements                         had              been,               hers
compromising, in appearing to be guarding a secret,
mine indiscreet, in attempting to pass that guard.
She was the first to recover. Suddenly turning very
red, she gave me the letter. I no longer dared not
to take it, but, as I slipped it into the box, I could
not help seeing that it was addressed to M. de
Charlus.


       To return to this first evening at the Princesse
de Guermantes's, I went to bid her good-night, for
her cousins, who had promised to take me home,
were in a hurry to be gone. M. de Guermantes
wished, however, to say good-bye to his brother,
Mme. de Surgis having found time to mention to the


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Duke as she left that M. de Charlus had been
charming to her and to her sons. This great courtesy
on his brother's part, the first moreover that he had
ever shewn in that line, touched Basin deeply and
aroused in him old family sentiments which were
never asleep for long. At the moment when we were
saying good-bye to the Princess he was attempting,
without actually thanking M. de Charlus, to give
expression to his fondness for him, whether because
he really found a difficulty in controlling it or in
order that the Baron might remember that actions
of the sort that he had performed this evening did
not escape the eyes of a brother, just as, with the
object of creating a chain of pleasant associations in
the future, we give sugar to a dog that has done its
trick. "Well, little brother!" said the Duke, stopping
M. de Charlus and taking him lovingly by the arm,
"so this is how one walks past one's elders and
betters without so much as a word. I never see you
now, Mémé, and you can't think how I miss you. I
was turning over some old letters just now and
came upon some from poor Mamma, which are all


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so full of love for you." "Thank you, Basin," replied
M. de Charlus in a broken voice, for he could never
speak without emotion of their mother. "You must
make up your mind to let me fix up bachelor
quarters for you at Guermantes," the Duke went on.
"It is nice to see the two brothers so affectionate
towards each other," the Princess said to Oriane.
"Yes, indeed! I don't suppose you could find many
brothers like that. I shall invite you to meet him,"
she promised me. "You've not quarrelled with
him?...          But what can they be talking about?" she
added in an anxious tone, for she could catch only
an occasional word of what they were saying. She
had always felt a certain jealousy of the pleasure
that M. de Guermantes found in talking to his
brother of a past from which he was inclined to keep
his wife shut out. She felt that, when they were
happy at being together like this, and she, unable to
restrain her impatient curiosity, came and joined
them, her coming did not add to their pleasure. But
this evening, this habitual jealousy was reinforced
by another. For if Mme. de Surgis had told M. de


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Guermantes how kind his brother had been to her
so that the Duke might thank his brother, at the
same time certain devoted female friends of the
Guermantes couple had felt it their duty to warn the
Duchess that her husband's mistress had been seen
in close conversation with his brother. And this
information was torture to Mme. de Guermantes.
"Think of the fun we used to have at Guermantes
long ago," the Duke went on.                                        "If you came down
sometimes in summer we could take up our old life
again. Do you remember old Father Courveau: 'Why
is Pascal vexing?                           Because he is vec... vec...'"
"Said!" put in M. de Charlus as though he were still
answering his tutor's question. "And why is Pascal
vexed; because he is vec... because he is vec...
Sing! Very good, you will pass, you are certain to be
mentioned, and Madame la Duchesse will give you a
Chinese dictionary." "How it all comes back to me,
young Même, and the old china vase Hervey
brought you from Saint-Denis, I can see it now. You
used to threaten us that you would go and spend
your life in China, you were so fond of the country;


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even then you used to love wandering about all
night. Ah! You were a peculiar type, for I can
honestly say that never in anything did you have
the same tastes as other people...." But no sooner
had he uttered these words than the Duke flamed
up, as the saying is, for he was aware of his
brother's reputation, if not of his actual habits. As
he never made any allusion to them before his
brother, he was all the more annoyed at having said
something which might be taken to refer to them,
and more still at having shewn his annoyance. After
a moment's silence: "Who knows," he said, to
cancel the effect of his previous speech, "you were
perhaps in love with a Chinese girl, before loving so
many white ones and finding favour with them, if I
am to judge by a certain lady to whom you have
given great pleasure this evening by talking to her.
She was delighted with you." The Duke had vowed
that he would not mention Mme. de Surgis, but, in
the confusion that the blunder he had just made had
wrought in his ideas, he had fallen upon the first
that       occurred              to       him,         which           happened                 to      be


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precisely the one that ought not to have appeared in
the conversation, although it had started it. But M.
de Charlus had observed his brother's blush. And,
like guilty persons who do not wish to appear
embarrassed that you should talk in their presence
of the crime which they are supposed not to have
committed, and feel that they ought to prolong a
dangerous conversation: "I am charmed to hear it,"
he replied, "but I should like to go back to what you
were saying before, which struck me as being
profoundly true. You were saying that I never had
the same ideas as other people, how right you are,
you said that I had peculiar tastes." "No," protested
M. de Guermantes who, as a matter of fact, had not
used those words, and may not have believed that
their        meaning               was          applicable               to       his        brother.
Besides, what right had he to bully him about
eccentricities which in any case were vague enough
or secret enough to have in no way impaired the
Baron's tremendous position in society? What was
more, feeling that the resources of his brother's
position were about to be placed at the service of


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his mistresses, the Duke told himself that this was
well worth a little tolerance in exchange; had he at
that moment known of some "peculiar" intimacy of
his brother, M. de Guermantes would, in the hope of
the support that the other was going to give him,
have passed it over, shutting his eyes to it, and if
need be lending a hand. "Come along, Basin; good
night, Palamède," said the Duchess, who, devoured
by rage and curiosity, could endure no more, "if you
have made up your minds to spend the night here,
we might just as well have stayed to supper. You
have been keeping Marie and me standing for the
last half-hour." The Duke parted from his brother
after a significant pressure of his hand, and the
three of us began to descend the immense staircase
of the Princess's house.


       On either side of us, on the topmost steps, were
scattered             couples             who          were           waiting             for       their
carriages to come to the door. Erect, isolated,
flanked by her husband and myself, the Duchess
kept to the left of the staircase, already wrapped in


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her Tiepolo cloak, her throat clasped in its band of
rubies, devoured by the eyes of women and men
alike, who sought to divine the secret of her beauty
and distinction. Waiting for her carriage upon the
same step of the stair as Mme. de Guermantes, but
at the opposite side of it, Mme. de Gallardon, who
had long abandoned all hope of ever receiving a visit
from her cousin, turned her back so as not to
appear to have seen her, and, what was more
important, so as not to furnish a proof of the fact
that the other did not greet her. Mme. de Gallardon
was in an extremely bad temper because some
gentlemen in her company had taken it upon
themselves to speak to her of Oriane: "I have not
the slightest desire to see her," she had replied to
them, "I did see her, as a matter of fact, just now,
she is beginning to shew her age; it seems she can't
get over it. Basin says so himself. And, good lord, I
can understand that, for, as she has no brains, is as
mischievous as a weevil, and has shocking manners,
she must know very well that, once her looks go,
she will have nothing left to fall back upon."


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       I had put on my greatcoat, for which M. de
Guermantes, who dreaded chills, reproached me, as
we went down together, because of the heated
atmosphere                   indoors.              And           the         generation                   of
noblemen which more or less passed through the
hands of Mgr. Dupanloup speaks such bad French
(except the Castellane brothers) that the Duke
expressed what was in his mind thus: "It is better
not to put on your coat before going out of doors, at
least as a general rule." I can see all that departing
crowd now, I can see, if I be not mistaken in placing
him upon that staircase, a portrait detached from its
frame, the Prince de Sagan, whose last appearance
in society this must have been, baring his head to
offer his homage to the Duchess, with so sweeping a
revolution of his tall hat in his white-gloved hand
(harmonising with the gardenia in his buttonhole),
that one felt surprised that it was not a plumed felt
hat of the old regime, several ancestral faces from
which were exactly reproduced in the face of this
great gentleman. He stopped for but a short time in


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front of her, but even his momentary attitudes were
sufficient to compose a complete tableau vivant,
and, as it were, an historical scene. Moreover, as he
has since then died, and as I never had more than a
glimpse of him in his lifetime, he has so far become
for me a character in history, social history at least,
that I am quite astonished when I think that a
woman and a man whom I know are his sister and
nephew.


       While we were going downstairs, there came up,
with an air of weariness that became her, a woman
who appeared to be about forty, but was really
older. This was the Princesse d'Orvillers, a natural
daughter, it was said, of the Duke of Parma, whose
pleasant voice rang with a vaguely Austrian accent.
She advanced, tall, stooping, in a gown of white
flowered silk, her exquisite, throbbing, cankered
bosom heaving beneath a harness of diamonds and
sapphires. Tossing her head like a royal palfrey
embarrassed                   by        its       halter           of       pearls,            of       an
incalculable value but an inconvenient weight, she


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let fall here and there a gentle, charming gaze, of
an azure which, as time began to fade it, became
more caressing than ever, and greeted most of the
departing guests with a friendly nod. "You choose a
nice time to arrive, Paulette!" said the Duchess.
"Yes, I am so sorry! But really it was a physical
impossibility," replied the Princesse d'Orvillers, who
had acquired this sort of expression from the
Duchesse de Guermantes, but added to it her own
natural sweetness and the air of sincerity conveyed
by the force of a remotely Teutonic accent in so
tender a voice. She appeared to be alluding to
complications of life too elaborate to be related, and
not merely to evening parties, although she had just
come on from a succession of these. But it was not
they that obliged her to come so late. As the Prince
de Guermantes had for many years forbidden his
wife to receive Mme.                              d'Orvillers, that lady, when
the ban was withdrawn, contented herself with
replying to the other's invitations, so as not to
appear to be thirsting after them, by simply leaving
cards. After two or three years of this method, she


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came in person, but very late, as though after the
theatre.            In        this        way           she         gave           herself             the
appearance of attaching no importance to the party,
nor to being seen at it, but simply of having come to
pay the Prince and Princess a visit, for their own
sakes, because she liked them, at an hour when,
the great majority of their guests having already
gone, she would "have them more to herself."


       "Oriane has really sunk very low," muttered
Mme. de Gallardon. "I cannot understand Basin's
allowing her to speak to Mme. d'Orvillers. I am sure
M. de Gallardon would never have allowed me." For
my part, I had recognised in Mme. d'Orvillers the
woman who, outside the Hôtel Guermantes, used to
cast languishing glances at me, turn round, stop and
gaze into shop windows. Mme. de Guermantes
introduced me, Mme. d'Orvillers was charming,
neither too friendly nor annoyed. She gazed at me
as at everyone else out of her gentle eyes.... But I
was never again, when I met her, to receive from
her one of those overtures with which she had


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seemed to be offering herself. There is a special
kind of glance, apparently of recognition, which a
young man never receives from certain women--nor
from certain men--after the day on which they have
made his acquaintance and have learned that he is
the friend of people with whom they too are
intimate.


       We were told that the carriage was at the door.
Mme. de Guermantes gathered up her red skirt as
though to go downstairs and get into the carriage,
but, seized perhaps by remorse, or by the desire to
give pleasure, and above all to profit by the brevity
which the material obstacle to prolonging it imposed
upon so boring an action, looked at Mme. de
Gallardon; then, as though she had only just caught
sight of her, acting upon a sudden inspiration,
before going down tripped across the whole width of
the step and, upon reaching her delighted cousin,
held out her hand. "Such a long time," said the
Duchess who then, so as not to have to develop all
the regrets and legitimate excuses that this formula


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might be supposed to contain, turned with a look of
alarm towards the Duke, who as a matter of fact,
having gone down with me to the carriage, was
storming with rage when he saw that his wife had
gone over to Mme. de Gallardon and was holding up
the stream of carriages behind. "Oriane is still very
good looking, after all!" said Mme. de Gallardon.
"People amuse me when they say that we have
quarrelled; we may (for reasons which we have no
need to tell other people) go for years without
seeing one another, we have too many memories in
common ever to be separated, and in her heart she
must know that she cares far more for me than for
all sorts of people whom she sees every day and
who are not of her rank." Mme. de Gallardon was in
fact like those scorned lovers who try desperately to
make people believe that they are better loved than
those, whom their fair one cherishes. And (by the
praises which, without heeding their contradiction of
what she had been saying a moment earlier, she
now lavished in speaking of the Duchesse de
Guermantes) she proved indirectly that the other


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was thoroughly conversant with the maxims that
ought to guide in her career a great lady of fashion
who, at the selfsame moment when her most
marvellous gown is exciting an admiration not
unmixed with envy, must be able to cross the whole
width of a staircase to disarm it. "Do at least take
care not to wet your shoes" (a brief but heavy
shower of rain had fallen), said the Duke, who was
still furious at having been kept waiting.


       On our homeward drive, in the confined space of
the coupé, the red shoes were of necessity very
close to mine, and Mme. de Guermantes, fearing
that she might actually have touched me, said to
the Duke: "This young man will have to say to me,
like the person in the caricature: 'Madame, tell me
at once that you love me, but don't tread on my feet
like that.'" My thoughts, however, were far from
Mme. de Guermantes. Ever since Saint-Loup had
spoken to me of a young girl of good family who
frequented a house of ill-fame, and of the Baroness
Putbus's maid, it was in these two persons that were


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coalesced and embodied the desires inspired in me
day by day by countless beauties of two classes, on
the one hand the plebeian and magnificent, the
majestic lady's maids of great bouses, swollen with
pride         and          saying            'we'         when            they          spoke             of
Duchesses, on the other hand those girls of whom it
was enough for me sometimes, without even having
seen them go past in carriages or on foot, to have
read the names in the account of a ball for me to fall
in love with them and, having conscientiously
searched the year-book for the country houses in
which they spent the summer (as often as not
letting myself be led astray by a similarity of
names), to dream alternately of going to live amid
the plains of the West, the sandhills of the North,
the pine-forests of the South. But in vain might I
fuse together all the most exquisite fleshly matter to
compose, after the ideal outline traced for me by
Saint-Loup, the young girl of easy virtue and Mme.
Putbus's maid, my two possessible beauties still
lacked what I should never know until I had seen
them: individual character. I was to wear myself out


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in seeking to form a mental picture, during the
months in which I would have preferred a lady's
maid, of the maid of Mme. Putbus. But what peace
of mind after having been perpetually troubled by
my restless desires, for so many fugitive creatures
whose very names I often did not know, who were
in any case so hard to find again, harder still to
become acquainted with, impossible perhaps to
captivate,              to        have           subtracted                 from           all       that
scattered, fugitive, anonymous beauty, two choice
specimens duly labelled, whom I was at least certain
of being able to procure when I chose. I kept
putting off the hour for devoting myself to this
twofold pleasure, as I put off that for beginning to
work, but the certainty of having it whenever I
chose dispensed me almost from the necessity of
taking it, like those soporific tablets which one has
only to have within reach of one's hand not to need
them and to fall asleep. In the whole universe I
desired only two women, of whose faces I could not,
it is true, form any picture, but whose names Saint-
Loup had told me and had guaranteed their consent.


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So that, if he had, by what he had said this evening,
set my imagination a heavy task, he had at the
same time procured an appreciable relaxation, a
prolonged rest for my will.


       "Well!" said the Duchess to me, "apart from
your balls, can't I be of any use to you? Have you
found a house where you would like me to introduce
you?" I replied that I was afraid the only one that
tempted me was hardly fashionable enough for her.
"Whose is that?" she asked in a hoarse and
menacing                voice,             scarcely               opening               her          lips.
"Baroness Putbus." This time she pretended to be
really angry. "No, not that! I believe you're trying to
make a fool of me. I don't even know how I come to
have heard the creature's name. But she is the
dregs of society. It's just as though you were to ask
me for an introduction to my milliner. And worse
than that, for my milliner is charming. You are a
little bit cracked, my poor boy. In any case, I beg
that you will be polite to the people to whom I have
introduced you, leave cards on them, and go and


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see them, and not talk to them about Baroness
Putbus of whom they have never heard." I asked
whether Mme.                       d'Orvillers was not inclined to be
flighty. "Oh, not in the least, you are thinking of
some one else, why, she's rather a prude, if
anything. Ain't she, Basin?" "Yes, in any case I don't
think there has ever been anything to be said about
her," said the Duke.


       "You won't come with us to the ball?" he asked
me. "I can lend you a Venetian cloak and I know
some one who will be damned glad to see you
there--Oriane for one, that I needn't say--but the
Princesse de Parme. She's never tired of singing
your        praises,             and         swears             by        you         alone.           It's
fortunate for you--since she is a trifle mature--that
she is the model of virtue. Otherwise she would
certainly have chosen you as a sigisbee, as it was
called in my young days, a sort of cavalière
servente."


       I was interested not in the ball but in my


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appointment with Albertine. And so I refused. The
carriage had stopped, the footman was shouting for
the gate to be opened, the horses pawing the
ground until it was flung apart and the carriage
passed into the courtyard. "Till we meet again," said
the Duke. "I have sometimes regretted living so
close to Marie," the Duchess said to me, "because I
may be very fond of her, but I am not quite so fond
of her company. But have never regretted it so
much as to-night, since it has allowed me so little of
yours." "Come, Oriane, no speechmaking." The
Duchess would have liked me to come inside for a
minute. She laughed heartily, as did the Duke, when
I said that I could not because I was expecting a girl
to call at any moment. "You choose a funny time to
receive visitors," she said to me.


       "Come along, my child, there is no time to
waste," said M. de Guermantes to his wife. "It is a
quarter to twelve, and time we were dressed...." He
came in collision, outside his front door which they
were grimly guarding, with the two ladies of the


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walking-sticks, who had not been afraid to descend
at dead of night from their mountain-top to prevent
a scandal.               "Basin, we felt we must warn you, in
case you were seen at that ball: poor Amanien has
just passed away, an hour ago." The Duke felt a
momentary alarm. He saw the delights of the
famous ball snatched from him as soon as these
accursed mountaineers had informed him of the
death of M.                  d'Osmond. But he quickly recovered
himself and flung at his cousins a retort into which
he introduced, with his determination not to forego
a pleasure, his incapacity to assimilate exactly the
niceties of the French language: "He is dead! No,
no, they exaggerate, they exaggerate!" And without
giving a further thought to his two relatives who,
armed with their alpenstocks, were preparing to
make their nocturnal ascent, he fired off a string of
questions at his valet:


       "Are you sure my helmet has come?" "Yes,
Monsieur le Duc." "You're sure there's a hole in it I
can breathe through? I don't want to be suffocated,


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damn it!" "Yes, Monsieur le Duc." "Oh, thunder of
heaven, this is an unlucky evening. Oriane, I forgot
to ask Babal whether the shoes with pointed toes
were for you!" "But, my dear, the dresser from the
Opéra-Comique is here, he will tell us. I don't see
how they could go with your spurs." "Let us go and
find the dresser," said the Duke. "Good-bye, my
boy, I should ask you to come in while we are trying
on, it would amuse you. But we should only waste
time talking, it is nearly midnight and we must not
be late in getting there or we shall spoil the set."


       I too was in a hurry to get away from M. and
Mme. de Guermantes as quickly as possible. Phèdre
finished at about half past eleven. Albertine must
have arrived by now. I went straight to Françoise:
"Is Mlle. Albertine in the house?" "No one has
called."


       Good God, that meant that no one would call! I
was in torment, Al-bertine's visit seeming to me
now all the more desirable, the less certain it had


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become.


       Françoise was cross too, but for quite a different
reason. She had just installed her daughter at the
table for a succulent repast. But, on hearing me
come in, and seeing that there was not time to whip
away the dishes and put out needles and thread as
though it were a work party and not a supper party:
"She has just been taking a spoonful of soup,"
Françoise explained to me, "I forced her to gnaw a
bit     of      bone,"            to      reduce             thus         to       nothing             her
daughter's supper, as though the crime lay in its
abundance.                    Even at luncheon or dinner, if I
committed                the        error          of       entering              the        kitchen,
Françoise would pretend that they had finished, and
would even excuse herself with "I just felt I could
eat a scrap," or 'a mouthjul.' But I was speedily
reassured on seeing the multitude of the plates that
covered the table, which Françoise, surprised by my
sudden entry, like a thief in the night which she was
not, had not had time to conjure out of sight. Then
she added: "Go along to your bed now, you have


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done enough work today" (for she wished to make it
appear that her daughter not only cost us nothing,
lived by privations, but was actually working herself
to death in our service). "You are only crowding up
the kitchen, and disturbing Master, who is expecting
a visitor. Go on, upstairs," she repeated, as though
she were obliged to use her authority to send her
daughter to bed, who, the moment supper was out
of the question, remained in the kitchen only for
appearance's sake, and if I had stayed five minutes
longer would have withdrawn of her own accord.
And turning to me, in that charming popular and
yet, somehow, personal French which was her
spoken language: "Master doesn't see that her face
is just cut in two with want of sleep." I remained,
delighted at not having to talk to Françoise's
daughter.


       I have said that she came from a small village
which was quite close to her mother's, and yet
different from it in the nature of the soil, its
cultivation,               in       dialect;             above              all       in       certain


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characteristics                  of       the         inhabitants.                      Thus           the
'butcheress' and Françoise's niece did not get on at
all well together, but had this point in common,
that, when they went out on an errand, they would
linger for hours at 'the sister's' or 'the cousin's,'
being           themselves                    incapable                  of        finishing               a
conversation, in the course of which the purpose
with which they had set out faded so completely
from their minds that, if we said to them on their
return:


       "Well! Will M. le Marquis de Norpois be at home
at a quarter past six?" they did not even beat their
brows and say: "Oh, I forgot all about it," but "Oh! I
didn't understand that Master wanted to know that,
I thought I had just to go and bid him good day." If
they 'lost their heads' in this manner about a thing
that had been said to them an hour earlier, it was
on the other hand impossible to get out of their
heads what they had once heard said, by 'the' sister
or cousin. Thus, if the butcheress had heard it said
that the English made war upon us in '70 at the


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same time as the Prussians, and I had explained to
her until I was tired that this was not the case,
every three weeks the butcheress would repeat to
me in the course of conversation: "It's all because of
that war the English made on us in '70, with the
Prussians." "But I've told you a hundred times that
you are wrong."--She would then answer, implying
that her conviction was in no way shaken: "In any
case, that's no reason for wishing them any harm.
Plenty of water has run under the bridges since '70,"
and so forth. On another occasion, advocating a war
with England which I opposed, she said: "To be
sure, it's always better not to go to war; but when
you must, it's best to do it at once. As the sister was
explaining just now, ever since that war the English
made on us in '70, the commercial treaties have
ruined us. After we've beaten them, we won't allow
one Englishman into France, unless he pays three
hundred francs to come in, as we have to pay now
to land in England."


       Such was, in addition to great honesty and,


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when they were speaking, an obstinate refusal to
allow any interruption, going back twenty times over
to the point at which they had been interrupted,
which ended by giving to their talk the unshakable
solidity of a Bach fugue, the character of the
inhabitants of this tiny village which did not boast
five hundred, set among its chestnuts, its willows,
and its fields of potatoes and beetroot.


       Franchise's daughter, on the other hand, spoke
(regarding herself as an up-to-date woman who had
got out of the old ruts) Parisian slang and •was well
versed in all the jokes of the day. Françoise having
told her that I had come from the house of a
Princess: "Oh, indeed! The Princess of Brazil, I
suppose, where the nuts come from." Seeing that I
was expecting a visitor, she pretended to suppose
that my name was Charles. I replied innocently that
it was not, which enabled her to get in: "Oh, I
thought it was! And I was just saying to myself,
Charles attend (charlatan)." This was not in the best
of taste. But I was less unmoved when, to console


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me for Albertine's delay, she said to me: "I expect
you'll go on waiting till doomsday. She's never
coming. Oh! Those modern flappers!"


       And so her speech differed from her mother's;
but, what is more curious, her mother's speech was
not the same as that of her grandmother, a native
of Bailleau-le-Pin, which was so close to Franchise's
village. And yet the dialects differed slightly, like the
scenery. Franchise's mother's village, scrambling
down a steep bank into a ravine, was overgrown
with willows. And, miles away from either of them,
there was, on the contrary, a small district of France
where the people spoke almost precisely the same
dialect as at Méséglise. I made this discovery only to
feel its drawbacks. In fact, I once came upon
Françoise eagerly conversing with a neighbour's
housemaid, who came from this village and spoke
its dialect. They could more or less understand one
another, I did not understand a word, they knew
this but did not however cease (excused, they felt,
by the joy of being fellow-countrywomen although


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born so far apart) to converse in this strange tongue
in front of me, like people who do not wish to be
understood. These picturesque studies in linguistic
geography                and          comradeship                    be-lowstairs                  were
continued              weekly             in       the        kitchen,             without             my
deriving any pleasure from them.


       Since, whenever the outer gate opened, the
doorkeeper pressed an electric button which lighted
the stairs, and since all the occupants of the building
had already come in, I left the kitchen immediately
and went to sit down in the hall, keeping watch, at a
point where the curtains did not quite meet over the
glass panel of the outer door, leaving visible a
vertical strip of semi-darkness on the stair. If, all of
a sudden, this strip turned to a golden yellow, that
would mean that Albertine had just entered the
building and would be with me in a minute; nobody
else could be coming at that time of night. And I sat
there, unable to take my eyes from the strip which
persisted in remaining dark; I bent my whole body
forward to make certain of noticing any change;


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but, gaze as I might, the vertical black band,
despite my impassioned longing, did not give me
the intoxicating delight that I should have felt had I
seen it changed by a sudden and significant magic
to a luminous bar of gold. This was a great to do to
make about that Albertine to whom I had not given
three minutes' thought during the Guermantes
party! But, reviving my feelings when in the past I
had been kept waiting by other girls, Gilberte
especially, when she delayed her coming, the
prospect of having to forego a simple bodily
pleasure caused me an intense mental suffering.


       I was obliged to retire to my room. Françoise
followed me. She felt that, as I had come away from
my party, there was no point in my keeping the rose
that I had in my buttonhole, and approached to take
it from me.                    Her action, by reminding me that
Albertine was perhaps not coming, and by obliging
me also to confess that I wished to look smart for
her benefit, caused an irritation that was increased
by the fact that, in tugging myself free, I crushed


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the flower and Françoise said to me: "It would have
been better to let me take it than to go and spoil it
like      that."          But         anything               that         she         might           say
exasperated me. When we are kept waiting, we
suffer so keenly from the absence of the person for
whom we are longing that we cannot endure the
presence of anyone else.


       When Françoise had left my room, it occurred to
me that, if it only meant that now I wanted to look
my best before Albertine, it was a pity that I had so
many times let her see me unshaved, with several
days' growth of beard, on the evenings when I let
her come in to renew our caresses. I felt that she
took no interest in me and was giving me the cold
shoulder. To make my room look a little brighter, in
case Albertine should still come, and because it was
one of the prettiest things that I possessed, I set
out, for the first time for years, on the table by my
bed, the turquoise-studded cover which Gilberte had
had made for me to hold Bergotte's pamphlet, and
which, for so long a time, I had insisted on keeping


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by me while I slept, with the agate marble. Besides,
as much perhaps as Albertine herself, who still did
not come, her presence at that moment in an 'alibi'
which she had evidently found more attractive, and
of which I knew nothing, gave me a painful feeling
which, in spite of what I had said, barely an hour
before, to Swann, as to my incapacity for being
jealous, might, if I had seen my friend at less
protracted intervals, have changed into an anxious
need to know where, with whom, she was spending
her time. I dared not send round to Albertine's
house, it was too late, but in the hope that, having
supper perhaps with some other girls, in a café, she
might take it into her head to telephone to me, I
turned the switch and, restoring the connexion to
my own room, cut it off between the post office and
the porter's lodge to which it was generally switched
at that hour. A receiver in the little passage on
which Françoise's room opened would have been
simpler, less inconvenient, but useless. The advance
of     civilisation              enables              each          of       us       to       display
unsuspected merits or fresh defects which make him


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dearer or more insupportable to his friends. Thus
Dr. Bell's invention had enabled Françoise to acquire
an additional defect, which was that of refusing,
however important, however urgent the occasion
might be, to make use of the telephone. She would
manage to disappear whenever anybody was going
to teach her how to use it, as people disappear
when it is time for them to be vaccinated. And so
the telephone was installed in my bedroom, and,
that it might not disturb my parents, a rattle had
been substituted for the bell. I did not move, for
fear of not hearing it sound. So motionless did I
remain that, for the first time for months, I noticed
the tick of the clock. Françoise came in to make the
room tidy. She began talking to me, but I hated her
conversation,                    beneath                 the           uniformly                  trivial
continuity of which my feelings were changing from
one minute to another, passing from fear to anxiety;
from anxiety to complete disappointment. Belying
the words of vague satisfaction which I thought
myself obliged to address to her, I could feel that
my face was so wretched that I pretended to be


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suffering from rheumatism, to account for the
discrepancy between my feigned indifference and
my woebegone expression; besides, I was afraid
that her talk, which, for that matter, Françoise
carried on in an undertone (not on account of
Albertine, for she considered that all possibility of
her coming was long past), might prevent me from
hearing the saving call which now would not sound.
At length Françoise went off to bed; I dismissed her
with an abrupt civility, so that the noise she made in
leaving the room should not drown that of the
telephone. And I settled down again to listen, to
suffer; when we are kept waiting, from the ear
which takes in sounds to the mind which dissects
and analyses them, and from the mind to the heart,
to which it transmits its results, the double journey
is so rapid that we cannot even detect its course,
and imagine that we have been listening directly
with our heart.


       I was tortured by the incessant recurrence of
my longing, ever more anxious and never to be


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gratified, for the sound of a call; arrived at the
culminating point of a tortuous ascent through the
coils of my lonely anguish, from the heart of the
populous, nocturnal Paris that had suddenly come
close to me, there beside my bookcase, I heard all
at once, mechanical and sublime, like, in Tristan,
the fluttering veil or the shepherd's pipe, the purr of
the telephone. I sprang to the instrument, it was
Albertine. "I'm not disturbing you, ringing you up at
this hour?" "Not at all..." I said, restraining my joy,
for her remark about the lateness of the hour was
doubtless meant as an apology for coming, in a
moment, so late, and did not mean that she was not
coming. "Are you coming round?" I asked in a tone
of indifference. "Why... no, unless you absolutely
must see me."


       Part of me which the other part sought to join
was in Albertine. It was essential that she come, but
I did not tell her so at first; now that we were in
communication, I said to myself that I could always
oblige her at the last moment either to come to me


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or to let me hasten to her. "Yes, I am near home,"
she said, "and miles away from you; I hadn't read
your note properly. I have just found it again and
was afraid you might be waiting up for me." I felt
sure that she was lying, and it was now, in my fury,
from a desire not so much to see her as to upset her
plans that I determined to make her come. But I felt
it better to refuse at first what in a few moments I
should try to obtain from her. But where was she?
With the sound of her voice were blended other
sounds: the braying of a bicyclist's horn, a woman's
voice singing, a brass band in the distance rang out
as distinctly as the beloved voice, as though to shew
me that it was indeed Albertine in her actual
surroundings who was beside me at that moment,
like a clod of earth with which we have carried away
all the grass that was growing from it. The same
sounds that I heard were striking her ear also, and
were distracting her attention: details of truth,
extraneous                 to        the         subject             under             discussion,
valueless in themselves, all the more necessary to
our perception of the miracle for what it was;


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elements sober and charming, descriptive of some
street in Paris, elements heart-rending also and
cruel of some unknown festivity which, after she
came away from Phèdre, had prevented Albertine
from coming to me. "I must warn you first of all that
I don't in the least want you to come, because, at
this time of night, it will be a frightful nuisance..." I
said to her, "I'm dropping with sleep. Besides, oh,
well, there are endless complications. I am bound to
say        that          there           was          no         possibility               of       your
misunderstanding my letter. You answered that it
was all right. Very well, if you hadn't understood,
what did you mean by that?" "I said it was all right,
only I couldn't quite remember what we had
arranged. But I see you're cross with me, I'm sorry.
I wish now I'd never gone to Phèdre. If I'd known
there was going to be all this fuss about it..." she
went on, as people invariably do when, being in the
wrong over one thing, they pretend to suppose that
they are being blamed for another. "I am not in the
least annoyed about Phèdre, seeing it was I that
asked you to go to it." "Then you are angry with


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me; it's a nuisance it's so late now, otherwise I
should have come to you, but I shall call tomorrow
or the day after and make it up." "Oh, please,
Albertine, I beg of you not to, after making me
waste an entire evening, the least you can do is to
leave me in peace for the next few days. I shan't be
free for a fortnight or three weeks. Listen, if it
worries you to think that we seem to be parting in
anger, and perhaps you are right, after all, then I
greatly prefer, all things considered, since I have
been waiting for you all this time and you have not
gone home yet, that you should come at once. I
shall take a cup of coffee to keep myself awake."
"Couldn't you possibly put it off till tomorrow?
Because the trouble is...." As I listened to these
words of deprecation, uttered as though she did not
intend to come, I felt that, with the longing to see
again the velvet-blooming face which in the past, at
Balbec, used to point all my days to the moment
when, by the mauve September sea, I should be
walking by the side of that roseate flower, a very
different element was painfully endeavouring to


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combine. This terrible need of a person, at Combray
I had learned to know it in the case of my mother,
and to the pitch of wanting to die if she sent word to
me by Françoise that she could not come upstairs.
This effort on the part of the old sentiment, to
combine and form but a single element with the
other, more recent, which had for its voluptuous
object           only          the         coloured               surface,              the          rosy
complexion of a flower of the beach, this effort
results often only in creating (in the chemical sense)
a new body, which can last for but a few moments.
This evening, at any rate, and for long afterwards,
the two elements remained apart. But already, from
the last words that had reached me over the
telephone, I was beginning to understand that
Albertine's life was situated (not in a material sense,
of course) at so great a distance from mine that I
should always have to make a strenuous exploration
before I could lay my hand on her, and, what was
more, organised like a system of earthworks, and,
for greater security, after the fashion which, at a
later       period,            we        learned             to       call       camouflaged.


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Albertine, in fact, belonged, although at a slightly
higher social level, to that class of persons to whom
their door-keeper promises your messenger that she
will deliver your letter when she comes in (until the
day when you realise that it is precisely she, the
person whom you met out of doors, and to whom
you have allowed yourself to write, who is the door-
keeper. So that she does indeed live (but in the
lodge, only) at the address she has given you, which
for that matter is that of a private brothel, in which
the door-keeper acts as pander), or who gives as
her address a house where she is known to
accomplices who will not betray her secret to you,
from which your letters will be forwarded to her, but
in which she does not live, keeps at the most a few
articles of toilet. Lives entrenched behind five or six
lines of defence, so that when you try to see the
woman, or to find out about her, you invariably
arrive too far to the right, or to the left, or too early,
or too late, and may remain for months on end, for
years even, knowing nothing. About Albertine, I felt
that I should never find out anything, that, out of


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that tangled mass of details of fact and falsehood, I
should never unravel the truth: and that it would
always be so, unless I were to shut her up in prison
(but prisoners escape) until the end. This evening,
this conviction gave me only a vague uneasiness, in
which          however                I      could           detect            a      shuddering
anticipation of long periods of suffering to come.


       "No," I replied, "I told you a moment ago that I
should not be free for the next three weeks--no
more to-morrow than any other day." "Very well, in
that case... I shall come this very instant... it's a
nuisance, because I am at a friend's house, and
she...." I saw that she had not believed that I would
accept her offer to come, which therefore was not
sincere, and I decided to force her hand. "What do
you suppose I care about your friend, either come
or don't, it's for you to decide, it wasn't I that asked
you to come, it was you who suggested it to me."
"Don't be angry with me, I am going to jump into a
cab now and shall be with you in ten minutes." And
so from that Paris out of whose murky depths there


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had already emanated as far as my room, delimiting
the sphere of action of an absent person, a voice
which was now about to emerge and appear, after
this preliminary announcement, it was that Albertine
whom I had known long ago beneath the sky of
Balbec, when the waiters of the Grand Hotel, as
they laid the tables, were blinded by the glow of the
setting sun, when, the glass having been removed
from all the windows, every faintest murmur of the
evening passed freely from the beach where the last
strolling couples still lingered, into the vast dining-
room in which the first diners had not yet taken
their places, and, across the mirror placed behind
the cashier's desk, there passed the red reflexion of
the hull, and lingered long after it the grey reflexion
of the smoke of the last steamer for Rivebelle. I no
longer          asked            myself             what           could           have           made
Albertine late, and, when Françoise came into my
room to inform me: "Mademoiselle Albertine is
here," if I answered without even turning my head,
that was only to conceal my emotion: "What in the
world makes Mademoiselle Albertine come at this


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time of night!" But then, raising my eyes to look at
Françoise, as though curious to hear her answer
which must corroborate the apparent sincerity of my
question, I perceived, with admiration and wrath,
that, capable of rivalling Berma herself in the art of
endowing with speech inanimate garments and the
lines of her face, Françoise had taught their part to
her bodice, her hair--the whitest threads of which
had been brought to the surface, were displayed
there like a birth-certificate--her neck bowed by
weariness and obedience. They commiserated her
for having been dragged from her sleep and from
her warm bed, in the middle of the night, at her
age, obliged to bundle into her clothes in haste, at
the risk of catching pneumonia. And so, afraid that I
might have seemed to be apologising for Albertine's
late arrival: "Anyhow, I'm very glad she has come,
it's just what I wanted," and I gave free vent to my
profound joy. It did not long remain unclouded,
when I had heard Françoise's reply. Without uttering
a word of complaint, seeming indeed to be doing her
best to stifle an irrepressible cough, and simply


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folding her shawl over her bosom as though she
were         feeling            cold,         she         began             by        telling          me
everything that she had said to Albertine, whom she
had not forgotten to ask after her aunt's health. "I
was just saying, Monsieur must have been afraid
that Mademoiselle was not coming, because this is
no time to pay visits, it's nearly morning. But she
must have been in some place where she was
enjoying herself, because she never even said as
much as that she was sorry she had kept Monsieur
waiting, she answered me with a devil-may-care
look, 'Better late than never!'" And Françoise added,
in words that pierced my heart: "When she spoke
like that she gave herself away. She would have
liked to hide what she was thinking, perhaps,
but...."


       I had no cause for astonishment. I said, a few
pages back, that Françoise rarely paid attention,
when she was sent with a message, if not to what
she herself had said, which she would willingly
relate in detail, at any rate to the answer that we


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were awaiting. But if, making an exception, she
repeated to us the things that our friends had said,
however              short          they          might            be,        she         generally
arranged, appealing if need be to the expression,
the tone that, she assured us, had accompanied
them,          to      make            them           in      some           way          or      other
wounding. At a pinch, she would bow her head
beneath an insult (probably quite imaginary) which
she had received from a tradesman to whom we had
sent her, provided that, being addressed to her as
our representative, who was speaking in our name,
the insult might indirectly injure us. The only thing
would          have           been           to       tell       her         that         she         had
misunderstood the man, that she was suffering from
persecution mania and that the shopkeepers were
not at all in league against her. However, their
sentiments affected me little. It was a very different
matter, what Albertine's sentiments were. And, as
she repeated the ironical words: "Better late than
never!" Françoise at once made me see the friends
in     whose            company                Albertine              had         finished             the
evening, preferring their company, therefore, to


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mine. "She's a comical sight, she has a little flat hat
on, with those big eyes of hers, it does make her
look funny, especially with her cloak which she did
ought to have sent to the amender's, for it's all in
holes. She amuses me," added, as though laughing
at     Albertine,              Françoise               who          rarely           shared            my
impressions, but felt a need to communicate her
own. I refused even to appear to understand that
this laugh was indicative of scorn, but, to give tit for
tat, replied, although I had never seen the little hat
to which she referred: "What you call a 'little flat
hat' is a simply charming...." "That is to say, it's just
nothing at all," said Françoise, giving expression,
frankly this time, to her genuine contempt. Then (in
a mild and leisurely tone so that my mendacious
answer might appear to be the expression not of my
anger but of the truth), wasting no time, however,
so as not to keep Albertine waiting, I heaped upon
Françoise these cruel words: "You are excellent," I
said to her in a honeyed voice, "you are kind, you
have a thousand merits, but you have never learned
a single thing since the day when you first came to


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Paris, either about ladies' clothes or about how to
pronounce words without making silly blunders."
And this reproach was particularly stupid, for those
French words which We are so proud of pronouncing
accurately are themselves only blunders made by
the Gallic lips which mispronounced Latin or Saxon,
our language being merely a defective pronunciation
of several others.


       The genius of language in a living state, the
future and past of French, that is what ought to
have interested me in Françoise's mistakes. Her
'amender' for 'mender' was not so curious as those
animals that survive from remote ages, such as the
whale or the giraffe, and shew us the states through
which animal life has passed. "And," I went on,
"since you haven't managed to learn in all these
years, you never will. But don't let that distress you,
it doesn't prevent you from being a very good soul,
and making spiced beef with jelly to perfection, and
lots of other things as well. The hat that you think
so simple is copied from a hat belonging to the


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Princesse de Guermantes which cost five hundred
francs. However, I mean to give Mlle. Albertine an
even finer one very soon." I knew that what would
annoy          Françoise               more           than          anything              was          the
thought of my spending money upon people whom
she disliked. She answered me in a few words which
were made almost unintelligible by a sudden attack
of breathless-ness.                         When I discovered afterwards
that she had a weak heart, how remorseful I felt
that I had never denied myself the fierce and sterile
pleasure of making these retorts to her speeches.
Françoise detested Albertine, moreover, because,
being poor, Albertine could not enhance what
Françoise regarded as my superior position. She
smiled benevolently whenever I was invited by
Mme. de Villeparisis. On the other hand, she was
indignant that Albertine did not practice reciprocity.
It came to my being obliged to invent fictitious
presents which she was supposed to have given me,
in the existence of which Françoise never for an
instant believed. This want of reciprocity shocked
her most of all in the matter of food. That Albertine


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should accept dinners from Mamma, when we were
not invited to Mme. Bontemps's (who for that
matter spent half her time out of Paris, her husband
accepting 'posts' as in the old days when he had had
enough of the Ministry), seemed to her an indelicacy
on the part of my friend which she rebuked
indirectly by repeating a saying current at Combray:


           "Let's eat my bread."                               "Ay, that's the stuff."
"Let's eat thy bread."                          "I've had enough."


       I pretended that I was obliged to write a letter.
"To whom were you writing?" Albertine asked me as
she entered the room. "To a pretty little friend of
mine, Gilberte Swann. Don't you know her?" "No." I
decided not to question Albertine as to how she had
spent the evening, I felt that I should only find fault
with her and that we should not have any time left,
seeing how late it was already, to be reconciled
sufficiently to pass to kisses and caresses. And so it
was with these that I chose to begin from the first
moment. Besides, if I was a little calmer, I was not


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feeling happy.                     The loss of all orientation, of all
sense of direction that we feel when we are kept
waiting, still continues, after the coming of the
person awaited, and, taking the place, inside us, of
the calm spirit in which we were picturing her
coming as so great a pleasure, prevents us from
deriving any from it. Albertine was in the room: my
unstrung nerves, continuing to flutter, were still
expecting her. "I want a nice kiss, Albertine." "As
many as you like," she said to me in her kindest
manner. I had never seen her looking so pretty.
"Another?" "Why, you know it's a great, great
pleasure to me." "And a thousand times greater to
me," she replied. "Oh! What a pretty book-cover
you have there!" "Take it, I give it to you as a
keepsake." "You are too kind...." People would be
cured for ever of romanticism if they could make up
their minds, in thinking of the girl they love, to try
to be the man they will be when they are no longer
in love with her.                      Gilberte's book-cover, her agate
marble, must have derived their importance in the
past from some purely inward distinction, since now


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they were to me a book-cover, a marble like any
others.


       I asked Albertine if she would like something to
drink. "I seem to see oranges over there and
water," she said. "That will be perfect." I was thus
able to taste with her kisses that refreshing coolness
which had seemed to me to be better than they, at
the Princesse de Guermantes's. And the orange
squeezed into the water seemed to yield to me, as I
drank, the secret life of its ripening growth, its
beneficent action upon certain states of that human
body which belongs to so different a kingdom, its
powerlessness to make that body live, but on the
other hand the process of irrigation by which it was
able to benefit it, a hundred mysteries concealed by
the fruit from my senses, but not from my intellect.


       When Albertine had gone, I remembered that I
had promised Swann that I would write to Gilberte,
and courtesy, I felt, demanded that I should do so
at once. It was without emotion and as though


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drawing a line at the foot of a boring school essay,
that I traced upon the envelope the name Gilberte
Swann, with which at one time I used to cover my
exercise-books to give myself the illusion that I was
corresponding with her. For if, in the past, it had
been I who wrote that name, now the task had been
deputed by Habit to one of the many secretaries
whom she employs. He could write down Gilberte's
name with all the more calm, in that, placed with
me only recently by Habit, having but recently
entered my service, he had never known Gilberte,
and knew only, without attaching any reality to the
words, because he had heard me speak of her, that
she was a girl with whom I had once been in love.


       I could not accuse her of hardness. The person
that I now was in relation to her was the clearest
possible proof of what she herself had been: the
book-cover, the agate marble had simply become
for me in relation to Albertine what they had been
for Gilberte, what they would have been to anybody
who had not suffused them with the glow of an


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internal flame.                   But now I felt a fresh disturbance
which in its turn destroyed the very real power of
things and words. And when Albertine said to me, in
a     further            outburst               of      gratitude:                "I       do        love
turquoises!" I answered her: "Do not let them die,"
entrusting to them as to some precious jewel the
future of our friendship which however was no more
capable of inspiring a sentiment in Albertine than it
had been of preserving the sentiment that had
bound me in the past to Gilberte.


       There appeared about this time a phenomenon
which deserves mention only because it recurs in
every important period of history. At the same
moment when I was writing to Gilberte, M. de
Guermantes, just home from his ball, still wearing
his helmet, was thinking that next day he would be
compelled to go into formal mourning, and decided
to proceed a week earlier to the cure that he had
been ordered to take. When he returned from it
three weeks later (to anticipate for a moment, since
I am still finishing my letter to Gilberte), those


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friends of the Duke who had seen him, so indifferent
at the start, turn into a raving anti-Dreyfusard, were
left speechless with amazement when they heard
him (as though the action of the cure had not been
confined to his bladder) answer: "Oh, well, there'll
be a fresh trial and he'll be acquitted; you can't
sentence a fellow without any evidence against him.
Did you ever see anyone so gaga as Forcheville? An
officer, leading the French people to the shambles,
heading straight for war. Strange times we live in."
The fact was that, in the interval, the Duke had met,
at the spa, three charming ladies (an Italian
princess and her two sisters-in-law). After hearing
them make a few remarks about the books they
were reading, a play that was being given at the
Casino, the Duke had at once understood that he
was dealing with women of superior intellect, by
whom, as he expressed it, he would be knocked out
in the first round. He was all the more delighted to
be asked to play bridge by the Princess. But, the
moment he entered her sitting room, as he began,
in the fervour of his double-dyed anti-Dreyfusism:


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"Well, we don't hear very much more of the famous
Dreyfus and his appeal," his stupefaction had been
great when he heard the Princess and her sisters-in-
law say: "It's becoming more certain every day.
They can't keep a man in prison who has done
nothing." "Eh? Eh?" the Duke had gasped at first, as
at the discovery of a fantastic nickname employed in
this household to turn to ridicule a person whom he
had always regarded as intelligent. But, after a few
days, as, from cowardice and the spirit of imitation,
we shout 'Hallo, Jojotte' without knowing why at a
great artist whom we hear so addressed by the rest
of       the         household,                   the          Duke,              still        greatly
embarrassed by the novelty of this attitude, began
nevertheless to say: "After all, if there is no
evidence against him." The three charming ladies
decided that he was not progressing rapidly enough
and began to bully him: "But really, nobody with a
grain of intelligence can ever have believed for a
moment that there was anything." Whenever any
revelation came out that was 'damning' to Dreyfus,
and the Duke, supposing that now he was going to


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convert the three charming ladies, came to inform
them of it, they burst out laughing and had no
difficulty in proving to him, with great dialectic
subtlety, that his argument was worthless and quite
absurd. The Duke had returned to Paris a frantic
Dreyfusard. And certainly we do not suggest that
the three charming ladies were not, in this instance,
messengers of truth. But it is to be observed that,
every ten years or so, when we have left a man
filled with a genuine conviction, it so happens that
an intelligent couple, or simply a charming lady,
come in touch with him and after a few months he is
won over to the opposite camp. And in this respect
there are plenty of countries that behave like the
sincere man, plenty of countries which we have left
full of hatred for another race, and which, six
months later, have changed their attitude and
broken off all their alliances.


       I ceased for some time to see Albertine, but
continued, failing Mme. de Guermantes who no
longer spoke to my imagination, to visit other fairies


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and their dwellings, as inseparable from themselves
as is from the mollusc that fashioned it and takes
shelter within it the pearly or enamelled valve or
crenellated turret of its shell. I should not have been
able to classify these ladies, the difficulty being that
the problem was so vague in its terms and
impossible not merely to solve but to set. Before
coming to the lady, one had first to approach the
faery mansion. Now as one of them was always at
home after luncheon in the summer months, before
I reached her house I was obliged to close the hood
of my cab, so scorching were the sun's rays, the
memory of which was, without my realising it, to
enter into my general impression. I supposed that I
was merely being driven to the Cours-la-Reine; in
reality, before arriving at the gathering which a man
of wider experience would perhaps have despised, I
received, as though on a journey through Italy, a
delicious, dazzled sensation from which the house
was never afterwards to be separated in my
memory. What was more, in view of the heat of the
season and the hour, the lady had hermetically


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closed the shutters of the vast rectangular saloons
on the ground floor in which she entertained her
friends. I had difficulty at first in recognising my
hostess and her guests, even the Duchesse de
Guermantes, who in her hoarse voice bade me come
and sit down next to her, in a Beauvais armchair
illustrating the Rape of Europa. Then I began to
make out on the walls the huge eighteenth century
tapestries representing vessels whose masts were
hollyhocks in blossom, beneath which I sat as
though in the palace not of the Seine but of
Neptune, by the brink of the river Oceanus, where
the Duchesse de Guermantes became a sort of
goddess of the waters. I should never stop if I
began to describe all the different types of drawing-
room. This example is sufficient to shew that I
introduced               into         my          social          judgments                  poetical
impressions which I never included among the items
when I came to add up the sum, so that, when I
was calculating the importance of a drawing-room,
my total was never correct.



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       Certainly, these were by no means the only
sources of error, but I have no time left now, before
my departure for Balbec (where to my sorrow I am
going to make a second stay which will also be my
last), to start upon a series of pictures of society
which will find their place in due course. I need here
say only that to this first erroneous reason (my
relatively frivolous existence which made people
suppose that I was fond of society) for my letter to
Gilberte, and for that reconciliation with the Swann
family to which it seemed to point, Odette might
very well, and with equal inaccuracy, have added a
second. I have suggested hitherto the different
aspects that the social world assumes in the eyes of
a single person only by supposing that, if a woman
who,         the        other          day,         knew           nobody              now          goes
everywhere,                    and           another               who            occupied                 a
commanding position is ostracised, one is inclined to
regard          these           changes              merely             as       those          purely
personal ups and downs of fortune which from time
to time bring about in a given section of society, in
consequence of speculations on the stock exchange,


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a crashing downfall or enrichment beyond the
dreams of avarice. But there is more in it than that.
To a certain extent social manifestations (vastly less
important than artistic movements, political crises,
the evolution that sweeps the public taste in the
direction             of       the         theatre              of       ideas,            then           of
impressionist painting, then of music that is German
and complicated, then of music that is Russian and
simple, or of ideas of social service, justice, religious
reaction, patriotic outbursts) are nevertheless an
echo of them, remote, broken, uncertain, disturbed,
changing. So that even drawing-rooms cannot be
portrayed in a static immobility which has been
conventionally employed up to this point for the
study of characters, though these too must be
carried along in an almost historical flow. The thirst
for novelty that leads men of the world who are
more          or       less        sincere             in      their          eagerness                 for
information as to intellectual evolution to frequent
the circles in which they can trace its development
makes them prefer as a rule some hostess as yet
undiscovered, who represents still in their first


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freshness the hopes of a superior culture so faded
and tarnished in the women who for long years have
wielded the social sceptre and who, having no
secrets from these men, no longer appeal to their
imagination. And every age finds itself personified
thus in fresh women, in a fresh group of women,
who, closely adhering to whatever may at that
moment be the latest object of interest, seem, in
their attire, to be at that moment making their first
public appearance, like an unknown species, born of
the last deluge, irresistible beauties of each new
Consulate, each new Directory. But very often the
new hostess is simply like certain statesmen who
may be in office for the first time but have for the
last forty years been knocking at every door without
seeing any open, women who were not known in
society but who nevertheless had been receiving, for
years past, and failing anything better, a few
'chosen friends' from its ranks. To be sure, this is
not always the case, and when, with the prodigious
flowering of the Russian Ballet, revealing one after
another Bakst, Nijinski, Benoist, the genius of


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Stravinski,               Princess              Yourbeletieff,                   the        youthful
sponsor of all these new great men, appeared
bearing on her head an immense, quivering egret,
unknown to the women of Paris, which they all
sought to copy, one might have supposed that this
marvellous creature had been imported in their
innumerable baggage, and as their most priceless
treasure,             by        the        Russian              dancers;               but        when
presently, by her side, in her stage box, we see, at
every performance of the 'Russians,' seated like a
true fairy godmother, unknown until that moment to
the aristocracy, Mme. Verdurin, we shall be able to
tell the society people who naturally supposed that
Mme. Verdurin had recently entered the country
with Diaghileff's troupe, that this lady had already
existed in different periods, and had passed through
various avatars of which this is remarkable only in
being the first that is bringing to pass at last,
assured henceforth, and at an increasingly rapid
pace, the success so long awaited by the Mistress.
In Mme. Swann's case, it is true, the novelty she
represented had not the same collective character.


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Her drawing-room was crystallised round a man, a
dying man, who had almost in an instant passed, at
the moment when his talent was exhausted, from
obscurity to a blaze of glory. The passion for
Bergotte's works was unbounded.                                                 He spent the
whole day, on show, at Mme. Swann's, who would
whisper to some influential man: "I shall say a word
to him, he will write an article for you." He was, for
that matter, quite capable of doing so and even of
writing a little play for Mme. Swann. A stage nearer
to death, he was not quite so feeble as at the time
when he used to come and inquire after my
grandmother. This was because intense physical
suffering had enforced a regime on him. Illness is
the doctor to whom we pay most heed: to kindness,
to knowledge we make promises only; pain we
obey.


       It is true that the Verdurins and their little clan
had at this time a far more vital interest than the
drawing-room, faintly nationalist, more markedly
literary,          and         pre-eminently                     Bergottic,               of      Mme.


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Swann. The little clan was in fact the active centre
of a long political crisis which had reached its
maximum of intensity: Dreyfusism. But society
people were for the most part so violently opposed
to the appeal that a Dreyfusian house seemed to
them as inconceivable a thing as, at an earlier
period, a Communard house. The Principessa di
Caprarola,                who           had           made             Mme.             Verdurin's
acquaintance over a big exhibition which she had
organised, had indeed been to pay her a long call, in
the hope of seducing a few interesting specimens of
the little clan and incorporating them in her own
drawing-room, a call in the course of which the
Princess (playing the Duchesse de Guermantes in
miniature) had made a stand against current ideas,
declared that the people in her world were idiots, all
of which, thought Mme. Verdurin, shewed great
courage. But this courage was not, in the sequel, to
go the length of venturing, under fire of the gaze of
nationalist ladies, to bow to Mme. Verdurin at the
Balbec races. With Mme. Swann, on the contrary,
the anti-Dreyfusards gave her credit for being


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'sound,' which, in a woman married to a Jew, was
doubly meritorious. Nevertheless, the people who
had never been to her house imagined her as visited
only by a few obscure Israelites and disciples of
Bergotte. In this way we place women far more
outstanding than Mme. Swann on the lowest rung of
the social ladder, whether on account of their origin,
or because they do not care about dinner parties
and receptions at which we never see them, and
suppose this, erroneously, to be due to their not
having been invited, or because they never speak of
their social connexions, but only of literature and
art, or because people conceal the fact that they go
to their houses, or they, to avoid impoliteness to yet
other people, conceal the fact that they open their
doors to these, in short for a thousand reasons
which, added together, make of one or other of
them in certain people's eyes, the sort of woman
whom one does not know. So it was with Odette.
Mme.            d'Epinoy,                when            busy            collecting               some
subscription for the 'Patrie Française,' having been
obliged to go and see her, as she would have gone


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to her dressmaker, convinced moreover that she
would find only a lot of faces that were not so much
impossible as completely unknown, stood rooted to
the ground when the door opened not upon the
drawing-room she imagined but upon a magic hall in
which,           as       in      the         transformation                      scene           of       a
pantomime, she recognised in the dazzling chorus,
half reclining upon divans, seated in armchairs,
addressing their hostess by her Christian name, the
royalties, the duchesses, whom she, the Princesse
d'Epinoy, had the greatest difficulty in enticing into
her own drawing-room, and to whom at that
moment, beneath the benevolent eyes of Odette,
the Marquis du Lau, Comte Louis de Turenne, Prince
Borghese, the Duc d'Estrées, carrying orangeade
and        cakes,              were          acting            as        cupbearers                   and
henchmen.                   The          Princesse                 d'Epinoy,                as        she
instinctively made people's social value inherent in
themselves,                 was         obliged             to      disincarnate                  Mme.
Swann and reincarnate her in a fashionable woman.
Our ignorance of the real existence led by the
women who do not advertise it in the newspapers


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draws thus over certain situations (thereby helping
to differentiate one house from another) a veil of
mystery. In Odette's case, at the start, a few men of
the highest society, anxious to meet Bergotte, had
gone to dine, quite quietly, at her house. She had
had the tact, recently acquired, not to advertise
their presence, they found when they went there, a
memory              perhaps              of       the        little       nucleus,              whose
traditions Odette had preserved in spite of the
schism, a place laid for them at table, and so forth.
Odette took them with Bergotte (whom these
excursions, incidentally, finished off) to interesting
first nights. They spoke of her to various women of
their own world who were capable of taking an
interest in such a novelty. These women were
convinced               that         Odette,             an        intimate              friend           of
Bergotte, had more or less collaborated in his
works, and believed her to be a thousand times
more intelligent than the most outstanding women
of the Faubourg, for the same reason that made
them          pin         all       their         political            faith          to       certain
Republicans of the right shade such as M. Doumer


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and        M.       Deschanel,                 whereas               they          saw          France
doomed to destruction were her destinies entrusted
to the Monarchy men who were in the habit of
dining            with           them,              men            like          Charette                or
Doudeauville.                   This change in Odette's status was
carried out, so far as she was concerned, with a
discretion that made it more secure and more rapid
but allowed no suspicion to filter through to the
public that is prone to refer to the social columns of
the Gaulois for evidence as to the advance or
decline of a house, with the result that one day, at
the dress rehearsal of a play by Bergotte, given in
one of the most fashionable theatres in aid of a
charity, the really dramatic moment was when
people saw enter the box opposite, which was that
reserved for the author, and sit down by the side of
Mme. Swann, Mme. de Marsantes and her who, by
the gradual self-effacement of the Duchesse de
Guermantes (glutted with fame, and retiring to save
the trouble of going on), was on the way to
becoming the lion, the queen of the age, Comtesse
Mole. "We never even supposed that she had begun


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to climb," people said of Odette as they saw
Comtesse Molé enter her box, "and look, she has
reached the top of the ladder."


       So that Mme. Swann might suppose that it was
from snobbishness that I was taking up again with
her daughter.


       Odette, notwithstanding her brilliant                                                   escort,
listened with close attention to the play, as though
she had come there solely to see it performed, just
as in the past she used to walk across the Bois for
her health, as a form of exercise. Men who in the
past had shewn less interest in her came to the
edge of the box, disturbing the whole audience, to
reach up to her hand and so approach the imposing
circle that surrounded her. She, with a smile that
was still more friendly than ironical, replied patiently
to their questions, affecting greater calm than might
have been expected, a calm which was, perhaps,
sincere, this exhibition being only the belated
revelation             of       a     habitual             and         discreetly              hidden


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intimacy. Behind these three ladies to whom every
eye was drawn was Bergotte flanked by the Prince
d'Agrigente, Comte Louis de Turenne, and the
Marquis de Bréauté. And it is easy to understand
that, to men who were received everywhere and
could not expect any further advancement save as a
reward for original research, this demonstration of
their merit which they considered that they were
making in letting themselves succumb to a hostess
with a reputation for profound intellectuality, in
whose           house            they         expected                to      meet            all      the
dramatists and novelists of the day, was more
exciting, more lively than those evenings at the
Princesse de Guermantes's, which, without any
change of programme or fresh attraction, had been
going on year after year, all more or less like the
one we have described in such detail. In that
exalted sphere, the sphere of the Guermantes, in
which people were beginning to lose interest, the
latest intellectual fashions were not incarnate in
entertainments fashioned in their image, as in those
sketches that Bergotte used to write for Mme.


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Swann, or those positive committees of public safety
(had society been capable of taking an interest in
the Dreyfus case) at which, in Mme. Verdurin's
drawing-room,                       used             to         assemble                   Picquart,
Clemenceau, Zola, Reinach and Labori.


       Gilberte, too, helped to strengthen her mother's
position, for an uncle of Swann had just left nearly
twenty-four million francs to the girl, which meant
that the Faubourg Saint-Germain was beginning to
take notice of her. The reverse of the medal was
that       Swann              (who,           however,                was          dying)            held
Dreyfusard opinions, though this as a matter of fact
did not injure his wife, but was actually of service to
her. It did not injure her because people said: "He is
dotty, his mind has quite gone, nobody pays any
attention to him, his wife is the only person who
counts and she is charming." But even Swann's
Dreyfusism was useful to Odette. Left to herself, she
would quite possibly have allowed herself to make
advances to fashionable women which would have
been her undoing. Whereas on the evenings when


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she dragged her husband out to dine in the
Faubourg Saint-Germain, Swann, sitting sullenly in
his corner, would not hesitate, if he saw Odette
seeking an introduction to some Nationalist lady, to
exclaim aloud: "Really, Odette, you are mad. Why
can't you keep yourself to yourself.                                            It is idiotic of
you to get yourself introduced to anti-Semites, I
forbid you." People in society whom everyone else
runs after are not accustomed either to such pride
or to such ill-breeding. For the first time they beheld
some one who thought himself 'superior' to them.
The fame of Swann's mut-terings was spread
abroad, and cards with turned-down corners rained
upon Odette. When she came to call upon Mme.
d'Arpajon there was a brisk movement of friendly
curiosity. "You didn't mind my introducing her to
you," said Mme. d'Arpajon. "She is so nice. It was
Marie de Mar-santes that told me about her." "No,
not at all, I hear she's so wonderfully clever, and
she is charming. I had been longing to meet her; do
tell me where she lives." Mme. d'Arpajon told Mme.
Swann that she had enjoyed herself hugely at the


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latter's house the other evening, and had joyfully
forsaken Mme. de Saint-Euverte for her. And it was
true, for to prefer Mme. Swann was to shew that
one was intelligent, like going to concerts instead of
to tea-parties. But when Mme. de Saint-Euverte
called on Mme.                         d'Arpajon at the same time as
Odette, as Mme. de Saint-Euverte was a great snob
and Mme. d'Arpajon, albeit she treated her without
ceremony, valued her invitations, she did not
introduce Odette, so that Mme. de Saint-Euverte
should not know who it was. The Marquise imagined
that it must be some Princess who never went
anywhere, since she had never seen her before,
prolonged her call, replied indirectly to what Odette
was saying, but Mme. d'Arpajon remained adamant.
And        when            Mme.            Saint-Euverte                     owned             herself
defeated and took her leave: "I did not introduce
you," her hostess told Odette, "because people don't
much care about going to her parties and she is
always inviting one; you would never hear the last
of her." "Oh, that is all right," said Odette with a
pang of regret. But she retained the idea that


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people did not care about going to Mme. de Saint-
Euverte's, which was to a certain extent true, and
concluded that she herself held a position in society
vastly superior to Mme. de Saint-Euverte's, albeit
that lady held a very high position, and Odette, so
far, had none at all.


       That made no difference to her, and, albeit all
Mme. de Guermantes's friends were friends also of
Mme. d'Arpajon, whenever the latter invited Mme.
Swann,             Odette              would             say          with          an         air        of
compunction: "I am going to Mme. d'Arpajon's; you
will think me dreadfully old-fashioned, I know, but I
hate        going,           for       Mme.            de        Guermantes's                     sake"
(whom, as it happened, she had never met). The
distinguished men thought that the fact that Mme.
Swann knew hardly anyone in good society meant
that she must be a superior woman, probably a
great musician, and that it would be a sort of extra
distinction, as for a Duke to be a Doctor of Science,
to go to her house. The completely unintelligent
women were attracted by Odette for a diametrically


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opposite reason; hearing that she attended the
Colonne               concerts                and           professed                 herself              a
Wagnerian, they concluded from this that she must
be 'rather a lark,' and were greatly excited by the
idea of getting to know her. But, being themselves
none too firmly established, they were afraid of
compromising themselves in public if they appeared
to be on friendly terms with Odette, and if, at a
charity concert, they caught sight of Mme. Swann,
would turn away their heads, deeming it impossible
to     bow,          beneath              the        very         nose          of       Mme.           de
Rochechouart, to a woman who was perfectly
capable of having been to Bayreuth, which was as
good as saying that she would stick at nothing.
Everybody becomes different upon entering another
person's house. Not to speak of the marvellous
metamorphoses that were accomplished thus in the
faery palaces, in Mme. Swann's drawing-room, M.
de Bréauté, acquiring a sudden importance from the
absence of the people by whom he was normally
surrounded, by his air of satisfaction at finding
himself there, just as if instead of going out to a


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party he had slipped on his spectacles to shut
himself up in his study and read the Revue des Deux
Mondes, the mystic rite that he appeared to be
performing in coming to see Odette, M. de Bréauté
himself seemed another man. I would have given
anything to see what alterations the Duchesse de
Montmorency-Luxembourg would undergo in this
new environment.                         But she was one of the people
who could never be induced to meet Odette. Mme.
de Montmorency, a great deal kinder to Oriane than
Oriane was to her, surprised me greatly by saying,
with regard to Mme. de Guermantes: "She knows
some quite clever people, everybody likes her, I
believe that if she had just had a slightly more
coherent             mind,           she         would           have           succeeded                 in
forming a salon. The fact is, she never bothered
about it, she is quite right, she is very well off as
she is, with everybody running after her." If Mme.
de Guermantes had not a 'salon,' what in the world
could a 'salon' be? The stupefaction in which this
speech plunged me was no greater than that which I
caused Mme. de Guermantes when I told her that I


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should like to be invited to Mme. de Montmorency's.
Oriane thought her an old idiot. "I go there," she
said, "because I'm forced to, she's my aunt, but
you! She doesn't even know how to get nice people
to come to her house." Mme. de Guermantes did not
realise that nice people left me cold, that when she
spoke to me of the Arpajon drawing-room I saw a
yellow butterfly, and the Swann drawing-room
(Mme. Swann was at home in the winter months
between 6 and 7) a black butterfly, its wings
powdered with snow. Even this last drawing-room,
which was not a 'salon' at all, she considered, albeit
out of bounds for herself, permissible to me, on
account of the 'clever people' to be found there. But
Mme. de Luxembourg! Had I already produced
something that had attracted attention, she would
have concluded that an element of snobbishness
may be combined with talent.                                                But I put the
finishing touch to her disillusionment; I confessed to
her that I did not go to Mme. de Montmorency's (as
she supposed) to 'take notes' and 'make a study.'
Mme. de Guermantes was in this respect no more in


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error         than          the         social           novelists              who           analyse
mercilessly from outside the actions of a snob or
supposed snob, but never place themselves in his
position, at the moment when a whole social
springtime                is       bursting               into         blossom                in        his
imagination. I myself, when I sought to discover
what was the great pleasure that I found in going to
Mme. de Montmorency's, was somewhat taken
aback.           She         occupied,               in       the        Faubourg                Saint-
Germain, an old mansion ramifying into pavilions
which were separated by small gardens. In the
outer hall a statuette, said to be by Falconnet,
represented a spring which did, as it happened,
exude a perpetual moisture. A little farther on the
doorkeeper, her eyes always red, whether from grief
or neurasthenia, a headache or a cold in the head,
never         answered                 your         inquiry,            waved             her        arm
vaguely to indicate that the Duchess was at home,
and let a drop or two trickle from her eyelids into a
bowl filled with forget-me-nots. The pleasure that I
felt on seeing the statuette, because it reminded me
of a 'little gardener' in plaster that stood in one of


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the Combray gardens, was nothing to that which
was given me by the great staircase, damp and
resonant, full of echoes, like the stairs in certain
old-fashioned                  bathing              establishments,                      with          the
vases filled with cinerarias--blue against blue--in the
entrance hall and most of all the tinkle of the bell,
which was exactly that of the bell in Eulalie's room.
This tinkle raised my enthusiasm to a climax, but
seemed to me too humble a matter for me to be
able to explain it to Mme. de Montmorency, with the
result that she invariably saw me in a state of
rapture of which she might never guess the cause.




         THE HEART'S INTERMISSIONS


         My second arrival at Balbec was very different
from the other. The manager had come in person to
meet         me         at      Pont-a-Couleuvre,                          reiterating               how
greatly he valued his titled patrons, which made me
afraid that he had ennobled me, until I realised that,


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in the obscurity of his grammatical memory, titré
meant simply attitré, or accredited. In fact, the
more new languages he learned the worse he spoke
the others. He informed me that he had placed me
at the very top of the hotel. "I hope," he said, "that
you        will       not         interpolate                this         as       a       want           of
discourtesy, I was sorry to give you a room of which
you are unworthy, but I did it in connexion with the
noise, because in that room you will not have
anyone above your head to disturb your trapanum
(tympanum). Don't be alarmed, I shall have the
windows closed, so that they shan't bang. Upon that
point, I am intolerable" (the last word expressing
not his own thought, which was that he would
always be found inexorable in that respect, but,
quite possibly, the thoughts of his underlings). The
rooms were, as it proved, those we had had before.
They were no humbler, but I had risen in the
manager's esteem. I could light a fire if I liked (for,
by the doctors' orders, I had left Paris at Easter),
but he was afraid there might be 'fixtures' in the
ceiling. "See that you always wait before alighting a


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fire until the preceding one is extenuated" (extinct).
"The important thing is to take care not to avoid
setting fire to the chimney, especially as, to cheer
things up a bit, I have put an old china pottage on
the mantelpiece which might become insured."


       He informed me with great sorrow of the death
of the leader of the Cherbourg bar. "He was an old
retainer," he said (meaning probably 'campaigner')
and gave me to understand that his end had been
hastened by the quickness, otherwise the fastness,
of his life. "For some time past I noticed that after
dinner he would take a doss in the reading-room"
(take a doze, presumably). "The last times, he was
so changed that if you hadn't known who it was, to
look         at        him,            he         was           barely             recognisant"
(presumably, recognisable).


       A happy compensation: the chief magistrate of
Caen had just received his 'bags' (badge) as
Commander of the Legion of Honour. "Surely to
goodness, he has capacities, but seems they gave


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him         it       principally                 because                of        his         general
'impotence.'"                  There             was          a       mention                of       this
decoration, as it happened, in the previous day's
Echo de Paris, of which the manager had as yet read
only 'the first paradox' (meaning paragraph). The
paper dealt admirably with M. Caillaux's policy. "I
consider, they're quite right," he said. "He is putting
us too much under the thimble of Germany" (under
the thumb). As the discussion of a subject of this
sort with a hotel-keeper seemed to me boring, I
ceased to listen. I thought of the visual images that
had made me decide to return to Balbec. They were
very different from those of the earlier time, the
vision in quest of which I came was as dazzlingly
clear as the former had been clouded; they were to
prove deceitful nevertheless. The images selected
by      memory                are        as        arbitrary,              as       narrow,              as
intangible as those which imagination had formed
and reality has destroyed. There is no reason why,
existing outside ourselves, a real place should
conform to the pictures in our memory rather than
to those in our dreams. And besides, a fresh reality


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will perhaps make us forget, detest even, the
desires that led us forth upon our journey.


       Those that had led me forth to Balbec sprang to
some extent from my discovery that the Verdurins
(whose invitations I had invariably declined, and
who would certainly be delighted to see me, if I
went to call upon them in the country with apologies
for never having been able to call upon them in
Paris), knowing that several of the faithful would be
spending the holidays upon that part of the coast,
and having, for that reason, taken for the whole
season one of M. de Cambremer's houses (la
Raspelière), had invited Mme. Putbus to stay with
them. The evening on which I learned this (in Paris)
I lost my head completely and sent our young
footman to find out whether the lady would be
taking her Abigail to Balbec with her. It was eleven
o'clock. Her porter was a long time in opening the
front door, and, for a wonder, did not send my
messenger packing, did not call the police, merely
gave         him         a      dressing              down,            but        with          it     the


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information that I desired. He said that the head
lady's maid would indeed be accompanying her
mistress, first of all to the waters in Germany, then
to Biarritz, and at the end of the season to Mme.
Verdurin's. From that moment my mind had been at
rest, and glad to have this iron in the fire, I had
been able to dispense with those pursuits in the
streets, in which I had not that letter of introduction
to the beauties I encountered which I should have
to the 'Giorgione' in the fact of my having dined that
very evening, at the Verdurins', with her mistress.
Besides, she might form a still better opinion of me
perhaps when she learned that I knew not merely
the middle class tenants of la Raspelière but its
owners, and above all Saint-Loup who, prevented
from commending me personally to the maid (who
did not know him by name), had written an
enthusiastic letter about me to the Cambremers. He
believed that, quite apart from any service that they
might be able to render me, Mme. de Cambremer,
the Legrandin daughter-in-law, would interest me
by her conversation. "She is an intelligent woman,"


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he had assured me. "She won't say anything final"
(final having taken the place of sublime things with
Robert, who, every five or six years, would modify a
few of his favourite expressions, while preserving
the more important intact), "but it is an interesting
nature, she has a personality, intuition; she has the
right word for everything. Every now and then she is
maddening, she says stupid things on purpose, to
seem smart, which is all the more ridiculous as
nobody could be less smart than the Cambremers,
she is not always in the picture, but, taking her all
round, she is one of the people it is more or less
possible to talk to."


       No sooner had Robert's letter of introduction
reached them than the Cambremers, whether from
a snobbishness that made them anxious to oblige
Saint-Loup, even indirectly, or from gratitude for
what he had done for one of their nephews at
Doncières, or (what was most likely) from kindness
of heart and traditions of hospitality, had written
long letters insisting that I should stay with them,


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or, if I preferred to be more independent, offering to
find me lodgings. When Saint-Loup had pointed out
that I should be staying at the Grand Hotel, Balbec,
they replied that at least they would expect a call
from me as soon as I arrived and, if I did not
appear, would come without fail to hunt me out and
invite me to their garden parties.


       No doubt there was no essential connexion
between Mme. Putbus's maid and the country round
Balbec; she would not be for me like the peasant
girl whom, as I strayed alone along the Méséglise
way, I had so often sought in vain to evoke, with all
the force of my desire.


       But I had long since given up trying to extract
from a woman as it might be the square root of her
unknown quantity, the mystery of which a mere
introduction was generally enough to dispel. Anyhow
at Balbec, where I had not been for so long, I
should have this advantage, failing the necessary
connexion which did not exist between the place and


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this particular woman, that my sense of reality
would not be destroyed by familiarity, as in Paris,
where, whether in my own home or in a bedroom
that I already knew, pleasure indulged in with a
woman could not give me for one instant, amid
everyday surroundings, the illusion that it was
opening the door for me to a new life. (For if habit is
a second nature, it prevents us from knowing our
original nature, whose cruelties it lacks and also its
enchantments.) Now this illusion I might perhaps
feel in a strange place, where one's sensibility is
revived by a ray of sunshine, and where my ardour
would be raised to a climax by the lady's maid
whom I desired: we shall see, in the course of
events, not only that this woman did not come to
Balbec, but that I dreaded nothing so much as the
possibility of her coming, so that the principal object
of my expedition was neither attained, nor indeed
pursued. It was true that Mme. Putbus was not to
be at the Verdurins' so early in the season; but
these pleasures which we have chosen beforehand
may be remote, if their coming is assured, and if, in


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the interval of waiting, we can devote ourselves to
the pastime of seeking to attract, while powerless to
love. Moreover, I was not going to Balbec in the
same practical frame of mind as before; there is
always less egoism in pure imagination than in
recollection; and I knew that I was going to find
myself in one of those very places where fair
strangers most abound; a beach presents them as
numerously as a ball-room, and I looked forward to
strolling up and down outside the hotel, on the
front, with the same sort of pleasure that Mme. de
Guermantes would have procured me if, instead of
making other hostesses invite me to brilliant dinner-
parties, she had given my name more frequently for
their lists of partners to those of them who gave
dances.            To make female acquaintances at Balbec
would be as easy for me now as it had been difficult
before, for I was now as well supplied with friends
and resources there as I had been destitute of them
on my former visit.


       I was roused from my meditations by the voice


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of the manager, to whose political dissertations I
had not been listening. Changing the subject, he
told me of the chief magistrate's joy on hearing of
my arrival, and that he was coming to pay me a
visit in my room, that very evening. The thought of
this visit so alarmed me (for I was beginning to feel
tired) that I begged him to prevent it (which he
promised to do, and, as a further precaution, to post
members of his staff on guard, for the first night, on
my landing). He did not seem overfond of his staff.
"I am obliged to keep running after them all the
time because they are lacking in inertia. If I was not
there they would never stir. I shall post the lift-boy
on sentry outside your door." I asked him if the boy
had yet become 'head page.' "He is not old enough
yet in the house," was the answer. "He has
comrades more aged than he is. It would cause an
outcry. We must act with granulation in everything.
I quite admit that he strikes a good aptitude"
(meaning attitude) "at the door of his lift. But he is
still a trifle young for such positions. With others in
the place of longer standing, it would make a


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contrast. He is a little wanting in seriousness, which
is the primitive quality" (doubtless, the primordial,
the most important quality). "He needs his leg
screwed on a. bit tighter" (my informant meant to
say his head). "Anyhow, he can leave it all to me. I
know what I'm about. Before I won my stripes as
manager of the Grand Hotel, I smelt powder under
M. Paillard." I was impressed by this simile, and
thanked the manager for having come in person as
far as Pont-à-Couleuvre. "Oh, that's nothing! The
loss        of       time           has          been           quite           infinite"             (for
infinitesimal). Meanwhile, we had arrived.


       Complete physical collapse. On the first night,
as I was suffering from cardiac exhaustion, trying to
master my pain, I bent down slowly and cautiously
to take off my boots. But no sooner had I touched
the topmost button than my bosom swelled, filled
with an unknown, a divine presence, I shook with
sobs, tears streamed from my eyes. The person who
came to my rescue, who saved me from barrenness
of spirit, was the same who, years before, in a


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moment of identical distress and loneliness, in a
moment when I was no longer in any way myself,
had come in, and had restored me to myself, for
that person was myself and more than myself (the
container that is greater than the contents, which it
was bringing to me). I had just perceived, in my
memory, bending over my weariness, the tender,
preoccupied, dejected face of my grandmother, as
she had been on that first evening of our arrival, the
face        not        of       that         grandmother                     whom              I     was
astonished--and reproached myself--to find that I
regretted so little and who was no more of her than
just her name, but of my own true grandmother, of
whom, for the first time since that afternoon in the
Champs-Elysées on which she had had her stroke, I
now recaptured, by an instinctive and complete act
of recollection, the living reality. That reality has no
existence for us, so long as it has not been created
anew by our mind (otherwise the men who have
been engaged in a Titanic conflict would all of them
be great epic poets); and so, in my insane desire to
fling myself into her arms, it was not until this


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moment, more than a year after her burial, because
of that anachronism which so often prevents the
calendar of facts from corresponding to that of our
feelings, that I became conscious that she was
dead. I had often spoken about her in the interval,
and thought of her also, but behind my words and
thoughts, those of an ungrateful, selfish, cruel
youngster, there had never been anything that
resembled                my          grandmother,                      because,               in       my
frivolity, my love of pleasure, my familiarity with the
spectacle of her ill health, I retained only in a
potential state the memory of what she had been.
At whatever moment we estimate it, the total value
of our spiritual nature is more or less fictitious,
notwithstanding the long inventory of its treasures,
for now one, now another of these is unrealisable,
whether we are considering actual treasures or
those of the imagination, and, in my own case, fully
as much as the ancient name of Guermantes, this
other, how far more important item, my real
memory of my grandmother. For with the troubles
of       memory                are          closely             linked             the         heart's


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intermissions. It is, no doubt, the existence of our
body, which we may compare to a jar containing our
spiritual nature, that leads us to suppose that all our
inward wealth, our past joys, all our sorrows, are
perpetually in our possession. Perhaps it is equally
inexact to suppose that they escape or return. In
any case, if they remain within us, it is, for most of
the time, in an unknown region where they are of
no service to us, and where even the most ordinary
are crowded out by memories of a different kind,
which preclude any simultaneous occurrence of
them in our consciousness. But if the setting of
sensations                in       which            they          are         preserved                 be
recaptured, they acquire in turn the same power of
expelling everything that is incompatible with them,
of installing alone in us the self that originally lived
them. Now, inasmuch as the self that I had just
suddenly become once again had not existed since
that evening long ago when my grandmother
undressed me after my arrival at Balbec, it was
quite naturally, not at the end of the day that had
just passed, of which that self knew nothing, but--as


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though there were in time different and parallel
series--without loss of continuity, immediately after
the first evening at Balbec long ago, that I clung to
the minute in which my grandmother had leaned
over me. The self that I then was, that had so long
disappeared, was once again so close to me that I
seemed still to hear the words that had just been
spoken, albeit they were nothing more now than
illusion, as a man who is half awake thinks he can
still make out close at hand the sounds of his
receding dream. I was nothing now but the person
who sought a refuge in his grandmother's arms,
sought to wipe away the traces of his suffering by
giving her kisses, that person whom I should have
had as great difficulty in imagining when I was one
or other of those persons which, for some time past,
I had successively been, as the efforts, doomed in
any event to sterility, that I should now have had to
make to feel the desires and joys of any of those
which, for a time at least, I no longer was. I
reminded myself how, an hour before the moment
at which my grandmother had stooped down like


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that, in her dressing gown, to unfasten my boots, as
I wandered along the stiflingly hot street, past the
pastry-cook's, I had felt that I could never, in my
need to feel her arms round me, live through the
hour that I had still to spend without her. And now
that this same need was reviving in me, I knew that
I might wait hour after hour, that she would never
again be by my side, I had only just discovered this
because I had only just, on feeling her for the first
time, alive, authentic, making my heart swell to
breaking-point, on finding her at last, learned that I
had lost her for ever. Lost for ever; I could not
understand and was struggling to bear the anguish
of this contradiction: on the one hand an existence,
an affection, surviving in me as I had known them,
that is to say created for me, a love in whose eyes
everything found in me so entirely its complement,
its goal, its constant lodestar, that the genius of
great men, all the genius that might have existed
from the beginning of the world would have been
less precious to my grandmother than a single one
of my defects; and on the other hand, as soon as I


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had lived over again that bliss, as though it were
present, feeling it shot through by the certainty,
throbbing like a physical anguish, of an annihilation
that had effaced my image of that affection, had
destroyed that existence, abolished in retrospect our
interwoven destiny, made of my grandmother at the
moment when I found her again as in a mirror, a
mere stranger whom chance had allowed to spend a
few years in my company, as it might have been in
anyone's else, but to whom, before and after those
years, I was, I could be nothing.


       Instead of the pleasures that I had been
experiencing of late, the only pleasure that it would
have been possible for me to enjoy at that moment
would have been, by modifying the past, to diminish
the sorrows and sufferings of my grandmother's life.
Now, I did not recall her only in that dressing-gown,
a garment so appropriate as to have become almost
their symbol to the labours, foolish no doubt but so
lovable also, that she performed for me, gradually I
began to remember all the opportunities that I had


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seized, by letting her perceive, by exaggerating if
necessary my sufferings, to cause her a grief which
I imagined as being obliterated immediately by my
kisses, as though my affection had been as capable
as my happiness of creating hers; and, what was
worse, I, who could conceive no other happiness
now than in finding happiness shed in my memory
over the contours of that face, moulded and bowed
by love, had set to work with frantic efforts, in the
past, to destroy even its most modest pleasures, as
on      the        day         when            Saint-Loup                 had          taken           my
grandmother's photograph and I, unable to conceal
from         her         what           I      thought               of       the         ridiculous
childishness of the coquetry with which she posed
for him, with her wide-brimmed hat, in a flattering
half light, had allowed myself to mutter a few
impatient, wounding words, which, I had perceived
from a contraction of her features, had carried, had
pierced her; it was I whose heart they were rending
now that there was no longer possible, ever again,
the consolation of a thousand kisses.



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       But never should I be able to wipe out of my
memory that contraction of her face, that anguish of
her heart, or rather of my own: for as the dead exist
only in us, it is ourselves that we strike without
ceasing when we persist in recalling the blows that
we have dealt them. To these griefs, cruel as they
were. I clung with all my might and main, for I
realised that they were the effect of my memory of
my grandmother, the proof that this memory which
I had of her was really present within me. I felt that
I did not really recall her save by grief and should
have liked to feel driven yet deeper into me these
nails which fastened the memory of her to my
consciousness. I did not seek to mitigate my
suffering,             to      set        it     off,        to      pretend              that         my
grandmother                    was          only           somewhere                    else          and
momentarily                   invisible,              by         addressing                  to        her
photograph (the one taken by Saint-Loup, which I
had beside me) words and prayers as to a person
who        is      separated                from          us        but,         retaining              his
personality, knows us and remains bound to us by
an indissoluble harmony. Never did I do this, for I


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was determined not merely to suffer, but to respect
the original form of my suffering, as it had suddenly
come upon me unawares, and I wished to continue
to feel it, according to its own laws, whenever those
strange contradictory impressions of survival and
obliteration crossed one another again in my mind.
This painful and, at the moment, incomprehensible
impression, I knew--not, forsooth, whether I should
one day distil a grain of truth from it--but that if I
ever should succeed in extracting that grain of truth,
it could only be from it, from so singular, so
spontaneous an impression, which had been neither
traced by my intellect nor attenuated by my
pusillanimity, but which death itself, the sudden
revelation of death, had, like a stroke of lightning,
carved upon me, along a supernatural, inhuman
channel, a two-fold and mysterious furrow. (As for
the state of forgetfulness of my grandmother in
which I had been living until that moment, I could
not even think of turning to it to extract truth from
it; since in itself it was nothing but a negation, a
weakening of the mind incapable of recreating a real


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moment of life and obliged to substitute for it
conventional                   and           neutral               images.)                Perhaps,
however,              as       the        instinct            of       preservation,                   the
ingenuity of the mind in safeguarding us from grief,
had begun already to build upon still smouldering
ruins, to lay the first courses of its serviceable and
ill-omened structure, I relished too keenly the
delight of recalling this or that opinion held by my
dear one, recalling them as though she had been
able to hold them still, as though she existed, as
though I continued to exist for her. But as soon as I
had succeeded in falling asleep, at that more
truthful hour when my eyes closed to the things of
the outer world, the world of sleep (on whose
frontier intellect and will, momentarily paralysed,
could no longer strive to rescue me from the cruelty
of my real impressions) reflected, refracted the
agonising synthesis of survival and annihilation, in
the mysteriously lightened darkness of my organs.
World of sleep in which our inner consciousness,
placed in bondage to the disturbances of our organs,
quickens the rhythm of heart or breath because a


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similar dose of terror, sorrow, remorse acts with a
strength magnified an hundredfold if it is thus
injected into our veins; as soon as, to traverse the
arteries of the subterranean city, we have embarked
upon the dark current of our own blood as upon an
inward Lethe meandering sixfold, huge solemn
forms appear to us, approach and glide away,
leaving us in tears. I sought in vain for my
grandmother's form when I had stepped ashore
beneath the sombre portals; I knew, indeed, that
she did still exist, but with a diminished vitality, as
pale        as       that         of       memory;                 the        darkness               was
increasing, and the wind; my father, who was to
take me where she was, did not appear. Suddenly
my breath failed me, I felt my heart turn to stone; I
had just remembered that for week after week I had
forgotten to write to my grandmother. What must
she be thinking of me? "Great God!" I said to
myself, "how wretched she must be in that little
room which they have taken for her, no bigger than
what one would take for an old servant, where she
is all alone with the nurse they have put there to


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look after her, from which she cannot stir, for she is
still slightly paralysed and has always refused to rise
from her bed. She must be thinking that I have
forgotten her now that she is dead; how lonely she
must be feeling, how deserted! Oh, I must run to
see her, I mustn't lose a minute, I mustn't wait for
my father to come, even--but where is it, how can I
have forgotten the address, will she know me again,
I wonder? How can I have forgotten her all these
months?" It is so dark, I shall not find her; the wind
is keeping me back; but look I there is my father
walking ahead of me; I call out to him: "Where is
grandmother? Tell me her address. Is she all right?
Are you quite sure she has everything she wants?"
"Why," says my father, "you need not alarm
yourself. Her nurse is well trained. We send her a
trifle, from time to time, so that she can get your
grandmother anything she may need. She asks,
sometimes, how you are getting on. She was told
that you were going to write a book. She seemed
pleased.              She wiped away a tear." And then I
fancied I could remember that, a little time after her


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death, my grandmother had said to me, crying, with
a humble expression, like an old servant who has
been given notice to leave, like a stranger, in fact:
"You will let me see something of you occasionally,
won't you; don't let too many years go by without
visiting me. Remember that you were my grandson,
once, and that grandmothers never forget." And
seeing again that face, so submissive, so sad, so
tender, which was hers, I wanted to run to her at
once and say to her, as I ought to have said to her
then: "Why, grandmother, you can see me as often
as you like, I have only you in the world, I shall
never leave you any more." What tears my silence
must have made her shed through all those months
in which I have never been to the place where she
lies, what can she have been saying to herself about
me? And it is in a voice choked with tears that I too
shout to my father: "Quick, quick, her address, take
me to her." But he says: "Well... I don't know
whether you will be able to see her. Besides, you
know, she is very frail now, very frail, she is not at
all herself, I am afraid you would find it rather


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painful. And I can't be quite certain of the number of
the avenue." "But tell me, you who know, it is not
true that the dead have ceased to exist. It can't
possibly be true, in spite of what they say, because
grandmother does exist still." My father smiled a
mournful smile: "Oh, hardly at all, you know, hardly
at all. I think that it would be better if you did not
go. She has everything that she wants. They come
and keep the place tidy for her." "But she is often
left alone?" "Yes, but that is better for her. It is
better for her not to think, which could only be bad
for her. It often hurts her, when she tries to think.
Besides, you know, she is quite lifeless now. I shall
leave a note of the exact address, so that you can
go to her; but I don't see what good you can do
there, and I don't suppose the nurse will allow you
to see her." "You know quite well I shall always stay
beside her, dear, deer, deer, Francis Jammes, fork."
But already I had retraced the dark meanderings of
the stream, had ascended to the surface where the
world of living people opens, so that if I still
repeated:               "Francis             Jammes,                 deer,           deer,"            the


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sequence of these words no longer offered me the
limpid meaning and logic which they had expressed
to me so naturally an instant earlier and which I
could not now recall. I could not even understand
why the word 'Aias' which my father had just said to
me, had immediately signified: "Take care you don't
catch cold," without any possible doubt. I had
forgotten to close the shutters, and so probably the
daylight had awakened me. But I could not bear to
have before my eyes those waves of the sea which
my grandmother could formerly contemplate for
hours on end; the fresh image of their heedless
beauty was at once supplemented by the thought
that she did not see them; I should have liked to
stop my ears against their sound, for now the
luminous plenitude of the beach carved out an
emptiness in my heart; everything seemed to be
saying to me, like those paths and lawns of a public
garden in which I had once lost her, long ago, when
I was still a child: "We have not seen her," and
beneath the hemisphere of the pale vault of heaven
I felt myself crushed as though beneath a huge bell


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of bluish glass, enclosing an horizon within which
my grandmother was not. To escape from the sight
of it, I turned to the wall, but alas what was now
facing me was that partition which used to serve us
as a morning messenger, that partition which, as
responsive as a violin in rendering every fine shade
of       sentiment,                  reported                so         exactly              to        my
grandmother my fear at once of waking her and, if
she were already awake, of not being heard by her
and so of her not coming, then immediately, like a
second instrument taking up the melody, informed
me that she was coming and bade me be calm. I
dared not put out my hand to that wall, any more
than to a piano on which my grandmother had
played and which still throbbed from her touch. I
knew that I might knock now, even louder, that I
should hear no response, that my grandmother
would never come again. And I asked nothing better
of God, if a Paradise exists, than to be able, there,
to knock upon that wall the three little raps which
my grandmother would know among a thousand,
and to which she would reply with those other raps


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which said: "Don't be alarmed, little mouse, I know
you are impatient, but I am just coming," and that
He would let me remain with her throughout
eternity which would not be too long for us.


       The manager came in to ask whether I would
not like to come down.                                     He had most carefully
supervised my 'placement' in the dining-room. As he
had seen no sign of me, he had been afraid that I
might have had another of my choking fits. He
hoped that it might be only a little 'sore throats' and
assured me that he had heard it said that they could
be soothed with what he called 'calyptus.'


       He brought me a message from Albertine. She
was not supposed to be coming to Balbec that year
but, having changed her plans, had been for the last
three days not in Balbec itself but ten minutes away
by the tram at a neighbouring watering-place.
Fearing that I might be tired after the journey, she
had stayed away the first evening, but sent word
now to ask when I could see her. I inquired whether


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she had called in person, not that I wished to see
her, but so that I might arrange not to see her.
"Yes," replied the manager. "But she would like it to
be as soon as possible, unless you have not some
quite necessitous reasons. You see," he concluded,
"that everybody here desires you, definitively." But
for my part, I wished to see nobody.


       And yet the day before, on my arrival, I had felt
myself recaptured by the indolent charm of a
seaside existence. The same taciturn lift-boy, silent
this time from respect and not from scorn, and
glowing with pleasure, had set the lift in motion. As
I rose upon the ascending column, I had passed
once again through what had formerly been for me
the mystery of a strange hotel, in which when you
arrive, a tourist without protection or position, each
old        resident               returning                to        his         room,              each
chambermaid passing along the eery perspective of
a corridor, not to mention the young lady from
America with her companion, on their way down to
dinner, give you a look in which you can read


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nothing that you would have liked to see. This time
on the contrary I had felt the entirely soothing
pleasure of passing up through an hotel that I knew,
where I felt myself at home, where I had performed
once again that operation which we must always
start afresh, longer, more difficult than the turning
outside in of an eyelid, which consists in investing
things with the spirit that is familiar to us instead of
their own which we found alarming. Must I always, I
had asked myself, little thinking of the sudden
change of mood that was in store for me, be going
to strange hotels where I should be dining for the
first time, where Habit would not yet have killed
upon each landing, outside every door, the terrible
dragon           that         seemed              to       be       watching               over         an
enchanted life, where I should have to approach
those strange women whom fashionable hotels,
casinos, watering-places, seem to draw together
and endow with a common existence.


       I had found pleasure even in the thought that
the boring chief magistrate was so eager to see me,


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I could see, on that first evening, the waves, the
azure mountain ranges of the sea, its glaciers and
its cataracts, its elevation and its careless majesty--
merely upon smelling for the first time after so long
an interval, as I washed my hands, that peculiar
odour of the over-scented soaps of the Grand Hotel-
-which, seeming to belong at once to the present
moment and to my past visit, floated between them
like the real charm of a particular form of existence
to which one returns only to change one's necktie.
The sheets on my bed, too fine, too light, too large,
impossible to tuck in, to keep in position, which
billowed out from beneath the blankets in moving
whorls had distressed me before. Now they merely
cradled upon the awkward, swelling fulness of their
sails the glorious sunrise, big with hopes, of my first
morning. But that sun had not time to appear. In
the dead of night, the awful, godlike presence had
returned to life. I asked the manager to leave me,
and to give orders that no one was to enter my
room. I told him that I should remain in bed and
rejected his offer to send to the chemist's for the


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excellent drug. He was delighted by my refusal for
he was afraid that other visitors might be annoyed
by the smell of the 'calyptus.' It earned me the
compliment: "You are in the movement" (he meant:
'in the right'), and the warning: "take care you don't
defile yourself at the door, I've had the lock
'elucidated' with oil; if any of the servants dares to
knock at your door, he'll be beaten 'black and
white.' And they can mark my words, for I'm not a
repeater" (this evidently meant that he did not say a
thing twice). "But wouldn't you care for a drop of old
wine, just to set you up; I have a pig's head of it
downstairs" (presumably hogshead). "I shan't bring
it to you on a silver dish like the head of Jonathan,
and I warn you that it is not Château-Lafite, but it is
virtuously equivocal" (virtually equivalent). "And as
it's quite light, they might fry you a little sole." I
declined everything, but was surprised to hear the
name of the fish (sole) pronounced like that of the
King of Israel, Saul, by a man who must have
ordered so many in his life.



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       Despite the manager's promises, they brought
me in a little later the turned down card of the
Marquise de Cambremer. Having come over to see
me, the old lady had sent to inquire whether I was
there and when she heard that I had arrived only
the day before, and was unwell, had not insisted,
but       (not         without              stopping,               doubtless,                at       the
chemist's or the haberdasher's, while the footman
jumped down from the box and went in to pay a bill
or to give an order) had driven back to Féterne, in
her old barouche upon eight springs, drawn by a
pair of horses. Not infrequently did one hear the
rumble and admire the pomp of this carriage in the
streets of Balbec and of various other little places
along the coast, between Balbec and Féterne. Not
that these halts outside shops were the object of
these excursions. It was on the contrary some tea-
party or garden-party at the house of some squire
or     functionary,                 socially            quite          unworthy                of      the
Marquise.                       But           she,            although                 completely
overshadowing, by her birth and wealth, the petty
nobility of the district, was in her perfect goodness


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and simplicity of heart so afraid of disappointing
anyone who had sent her an invitation that she
would          attend            all      the         most          insignificant                 social
gatherings in the neighbourhood. Certainly, rather
than travel such a distance to listen, in the stifling
heat of a tiny drawing-room, to a singer who
generally had no voice and whom in her capacity as
the lady bountiful of the countryside and as a
famous musician she would afterwards be compelled
to congratulate with exaggerated warmth, Mme. de
Cambremer would have preferred to go for a drive
or to remain in her marvellous gardens at Féterne,
at the foot of which the drowsy waters of a little bay
float in to die amid the flowers. But she knew that
the probability of her coming had been announced
by the host, whether he was a noble or a free
burgess              of         Maineville-la                    Teinturière                   or         of
Chattoncourt-l'Orgueilleux.                                 And           if      Mme.                  de
Cambremer had driven out that afternoon without
making a formal appearance at the party, any of the
guests who had come from one or other of the little
places that lined the coast might have seen and


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heard the Marquise's barouche, which would deprive
her of the excuse that she had not been able to get
away from Féterne. On the other hand, these hosts
might have seen Mme. de Cambremer, time and
again, appear at concerts given in houses which,
they considered, were no place for her; the slight
depreciation caused thereby, in their eyes, to the
position of the too obliging Marquise vanished as
soon as it was they who were entertaining her, and
it was with feverish anxiety that they kept asking
themselves whether or not they were going to have
her at their 'small party.' What an allaying of the
doubts and fears of days if, after the first song had
been sung by the daughter of the house or by some
amateur on holiday in the neighbourhood, one of
the guests announced (an infallible sign that the
Marquise was coming to the party) that he had seen
the famous barouche and pair drawn up outside the
watchmaker's or the chemist's! Thereupon Mme. de
Cambremer (who indeed was to enter before long
followed by her daughter-in-law, the guests who
were staying with her at the moment and whom she


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had asked permission, granted with such joy, to
bring) shone once more with undiminished lustre in
the eyes of her host and hostess, to whom the
hoped-for reward of her coming had perhaps been
the determining if unavowed cause of the decision
they        had          made            a      month             earlier:            to       burden
themselves with the trouble and expense of an
afternoon party. Seeing the Marquise present at
their gathering, they remembered no longer her
readiness to attend those given by their less
deserving neighbours, but the antiquity of her
family, the splendour of her house, the rudeness of
her daughter-in-law, born Legrandin, who by her
arrogance emphasised the slightly insipid good-
nature of the dowager. Already they could see in
their mind's eye, in the social column of the Gaulois,
the paragraph which they would draft themselves in
the family circle, with all the doors shut and barred,
upon 'the little corner of Brittany which is at present
a whirl of gaiety, the select party from which the
guests            could            hardly            tear           themselves                   away,
promising their charming host and hostess that they


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would soon pay them another visit.' Day after day
they watched for the newspaper to arrive, worried
that they had not yet seen any notice in it of their
party, and afraid lest they should have had Mme. de
Cambremer for their other guests alone and not for
the whole reading public. At length the blessed day
arrived: "The season is exceptionally brilliant this
year at Balbec. Small afternoon concerts are the
fashion...."                Heaven                 be          praised,               Mme.              de
Cambremer's                    name             was           spelt          correctly,               and
included 'among others we may mention' but at the
head of the list. All that remained was to appear
annoyed at this journalistic indiscretion which might
get them into difficulties with people whom they had
not been able to invite, and to ask hypocritically in
Mme. de Cambremer's hearing who could have been
so treacherous as to send the notice, upon which
the Marquise, every inch the lady bountiful, said: "I
can understand your being annoyed, but I must say
I am only too delighted that people should know I
was at your party."



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       On the card that was brought me, Mme. de
Cambremer had scribbled the message that she was
giving an afternoon party 'the day after tomorrow.'
To be sure, as recently as the day before yesterday,
tired as I was of the social round, it would have
been a real pleasure to me to taste it, transplanted
amid those gardens in which there grew in the open
air, thanks to the exposure of Féterne, fig trees,
palms, rose bushes extending down to a sea as blue
and calm often as the Mediterranean, upon which
the host's little yacht sped across, before the party
began, to fetch from the places on the other side of
the bay the most important guests, served, with its
awnings spread to shut out the sun, after the party
had assembled, as an open air refreshment room,
and set sail again in the evening to take back those
whom it had brought. A charming luxury, but so
costly that it was partly to meet the expenditure
that it entailed that Mme. de Cambremer had
sought to increase her income in various ways, and
notably by letting, for the first time, one of her
properties                very           different                from            Féterne:                la


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Raspelière. Yes, two days earlier, how welcome such
a party, peopled with minor nobles all unknown to
me, would have been to me as a change from the
'high life' of Paris. But now pleasures had no longer
any meaning for me. And so I wrote to Mme. de
Cambremer to decline, just as, an hour ago, I had
put off Albertine: grief had destroyed in me the
possibility of desire as completely as a high fever
takes away one's appetite.... My mother was to
arrive on the morrow. I felt that I was less unworthy
to live in her company, that I should understand her
better, now that an alien and degrading existence
had         wholly             given             place           to        the          resurging,
heartrending memories that wreathed and ennobled
my soul, like her own, with their crown of thorns. I
thought so: in reality there is a world of difference
between real griefs, like my mother's, which literally
crush out our life for years if not for ever, when we
have lost the person we love--and those other
griefs, transitory when all is said, as mine was to be,
which pass as quickly as they have been slow in
coming, which we do not realise until long after the


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event, because, in order to feel them, we need first
to understand them; griefs such as so many people
feel, from which the grief that was torturing me at
this moment differed only in assuming the form of
unconscious memory.


       That I was one day to experience a grief as
profound as that of my mother, we shall find in the
course of this narrative, but it was neither then nor
thus that I imagined it. Nevertheless, like a principal
actor who ought to have learned his part and to
have been in his place long beforehand but has
arrived only at the last moment and, having read
over once only what he has to say, manages to 'gag'
so skilfully when his cue comes that nobody notices
his unpunctuality, my new-found grief enabled me,
when my mother came, to talk to her as though it
had existed always. She supposed merely that the
sight of these places which I had visited with my
grandmother (which was not at all the case) had
revived it. For the first time then, and because I felt
a sorrow which was nothing compared with hers,


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but which opened my eyes, I realised and was
appalled to think what she must be suffering. For
the first time I understood that the fixed and
tearless gaze (which made Françoise withhold her
sympathy)                  that           she          had           worn             since            my
grandmother's death had been arrested by that
incomprehensible                         contradiction                 of       memory                and
nonexistence. Besides, since she was, although still
in deep mourning, more fashionably dressed in this
strange             place,           I      was           more            struck            by         the
transformation that had occurred in her. It is not
enough to say that she had lost all her gaiety;
melted, congealed into a sort of imploring image,
she seemed to be afraid of shocking by too sudden
a movement, by too loud a tone, the sorrowful
presence that never parted from her. But, what
struck me most of all, when I saw her cloak of
crape, was--what had never occurred to me in Paris-
-that it was no longer my mother that I saw before
me, but my grandmother. As, in royal and princely
families, upon the death of the head of the house
his      son        takes           his       title       and,          from          being           Duc


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d'Orléans, Prince de Tarente or Prince des Laumes,
becomes King of France, Duc de la Trémoïlle, Duc de
Guermantes, so by an accession of a different order
and more remote origin, the dead man takes
possession of the living who becomes his image and
successor, carries on his interrupted life. Perhaps
the great sorrow that follows, in a daughter such as
Mamma, the death of her mother only makes the
chrysalis break open a little sooner, hastens the
metamorphosis and the appearance of a person
whom we carry within us and who, but for this crisis
which annihilates time and space, would have come
more gradually to the surface. Perhaps, in our
regret for her who is no more, there is a sort of
auto-suggestion which ends by bringing out on our
features resemblances which potentially we already
bore, and above all a cessation of our most
characteristically personal activity (in my mother,
her common sense, the sarcastic gaiety that she
inherited from her father) which we did not shrink,
so long as the beloved was alive, from exercising,
even at her expense, and which counterbalanced


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the traits that we derived exclusively from her. Once
she is dead, we should hesitate to be different, we
begin to admire only what she was, what we
ouiselves already were only blended with something
else, and what in future we are to be exclusively. It
is in this sense (and not in that other, so vague, so
false, in which the phrase is generally used) that we
may say that death is not in vain, that the dead
man continues to react upon us. He reacts even
more than a living man because, true reality being
discoverable only by the mind, being the object of a
spiritual operation, we acquire a true knowledge
only of things that we are obliged to create anew by
thought, things that are hidden' from us in everyday
life.... Lastly, in our mourning for our dead we pay
an idolatrous worship to the things that they liked.
Not only could not my mother bear to be parted
from my grandmother's bag, become more precious
than if it had been studded with sapphires and
diamonds, from her muff, from all those garments
which             served               to         enhance                  their            personal
resemblance, but even from the volumes of Mme.


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de Sévigné which my grandmother took with her
everywhere, copies which my mother would not
have exchanged for the original manuscript of the
letters. She had often teased my grandmother who
could never write to her without quoting some
phrase            of        Mme.             de        Sévigné               or        Mme.             de
Beausergent. In each of the three letters that I
received from Mamma before her arrival at Balbec,
she quoted Mme. de Sévigné to me, as though
those three letters had been written not by her to
me but by my grandmother and to her. She must at
once go out upon the front to see that beach of
which my grandmother had spoken to her every day
in her letters. Carrying her mother's sunshade, I
saw her from my window advance, a sable figure,
with timid, pious steps, over the sands that beloved
feet had trodden before her, and she looked as
though she were going down to find a corpse which
the waves would cast up at her feet. So that she
should not have to dine by herself, I was to join her
downstairs. The chief magistrate and the barrister's
widow           asked            to       be        introduced                 to       her.         And


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everything that was in any way connected with my
grandmother was so precious to her that she was
deeply touched, remembered ever afterwards with
gratitude what the chief magistrate had said to her,
just as she was hurt and indignant that, the
barrister's wife had not a word to say in memory of
the dead. In reality, the chief magistrate was no
more concerned about my grandmother than the
barrister's wife. The heartfelt words of the one and
the other's silence, for all that my mother imagined
so vast a difference between them, were but
alternative ways of expressing that indifference
which we feel towards the dead. But I think that my
mother found most comfort in the words in which,
quite involuntarily, I conveyed to her a little of my
own anguish. It could not but make Mamma happy
(notwithstanding all her affection for myself), like
everything else that guaranteed my grandmother
survival in our hearts. Daily after this my mother
went down and sat upon the beach, so as to do
exactly what her mother had done, and read her
mother's two favourite books, the Memoirs of


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Madame de Beausergent and the Letters of Madame
de Sévigné. She, like all the rest of us, could not
bear to hear the latter lady called the 'spirituelle
Marquise' any more than to hear La Fontaine called
'le Bonhomme.' But when, in reading the Letters,
she came upon the words: 'My daughter,' she
seemed to be listening to her mother's voice.


       She had the misfortune, upon one of these
pilgrimages during which she did not like to be
disturbed, to meet upon the beach a lady from
Combray, accompanied by her daughters. Her name
was,        I      think,          Madame                Poussin.                   But        among
ourselves we always referred to her as the 'Pretty
Kettle of Fish,' for it was by the perpetual repetition
of this phrase that she warned her daughters of the
evils that they were laying up for themselves,
saying for instance if one of them was rubbing her
eyes: "When you go and get ophthalmia, that will be
a pretty kettle of fish." She greeted my mother from
afar with slow and melancholy bows, a sign not of
condolence but of the nature of her social training.


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We might never have lost my grandmother, or had
any reason to be anything but happy. Living in
comparative retirement at Combray within the walls
of her large garden, she could never find anything
soft enough to her liking, and subjected to a
softening process the words and even the proper
names of the French language. She felt 'spoon' to
be too hard a word to apply to the piece of silver
which measured out her syrups, and said, in
consequence, 'spune'; she would have been afraid
of hurting the feelings of the sweet singer of
Télémaque by calling him bluntly Fénelon--as I
myself said with a clear conscience, having had as a
friend the dearest and cleverest of men, good and
gallant, never to be forgotten by any that knew him,
Bertrand de Fénelon--and never said anything but
'Fénelon,' feeling that the acute accent added a
certain softness. The far from soft son-in-law of this
Madame Poussin, whose name I have forgotten,
having been a lawyer at Combray, ran off with the
contents of the safe, and relieved my uncle among
others of a considerable sum of money. But most of


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the people of Combray were on such friendly terms
with the rest of the family that no coolness ensued
and her neighbours said merely that they were sorry
for Madame Poussin.                              She never entertained, but
whenever people passed by her railings they would
stop to admire the delicious shade of her trees',
which was the only thing that could be made out.
She        gave          us       no        trouble            at      Balbec,             where            I
encountered her only once, at a moment when she
was saying to a daughter who was biting her nails:
"When they begin to fester, that will be a pretty
kettle of fish."


       While Mamma sat reading on the beach I
remained in my room by myself. I recalled the last
weeks of my grandmother's life, and everything
connected with them, the outer door of the flat
which had been propped open when I went out with
her for the last time. In contrast to all this the rest
of the world seemed scarcely real and my anguish
poisoned everything in it. Finally my mother insisted
upon my going out. But at every step, some


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forgotten view of the casino, of the street along
which, as I waited until she was ready, that first
evening, I had walked as far as the monument to
Duguay-Trouin, prevented me, like a wind against
which it is hopeless to struggle, from going farther;
I lowered my eyes in order not to see. And after I
had recovered my strength a little I turned back
towards the hotel, the hotel in which I knew that it
was henceforth impossible that, however long I
might wait, I should find my grandmother, whom I
had found there before, on the evening of our
arrival. As it was the first time that I had gone out
of doors, a number of servants whom I had not yet
seen were gazing at me curiously. Upon the very
threshold of the hotel a young page took off his cap
to greet me and at once put it on again. I supposed
that Aimé had, to borrow his own expression, 'given
him the office' to treat me with respect. But I saw a
moment later that, as some one else entered the
hotel, he doffed it again. The fact of the matter was
that this young man had no other occupation in life
than to take off and put on his cap, and did it to


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perfection. Having realised that he was incapable of
doing anything else and that in this art he excelled,
he practised it as often as was possible daily, which
won him a discreet but widespread regard from the
visitors, coupled with great regard from the hall
porter upon whom devolved the duty of engaging
the boys and who, until this rare bird alighted, had
never succeeded in finding one who did not receive
notice within a week, greatly to the astonishment of
Aimé who used to say: "After all, in that job they've
only got to be polite, which can't be so very
difficult." The manager required in addition that they
should have what he called a good 'presence,'
meaning thereby that they should not be absent
from their posts, or perhaps having heard the word
'presence'              used           of       personal               appearance.                    The
appearance of the lawn behind the hotel had been
altered by the creation of several flower-beds and
by the removal not only of an exotic shrub but of
the page who, at the time of my former visit, used
to provide an external decoration with the supple
stem of his figure crowned by the curious colouring


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of his hair. He had gone with a Polish countess who
had taken him as her secretary, following the
example of his two elder brothers and their typist
sister, torn from the hotel by persons of different
race and sex who had been attracted by their
charm. The only one remaining was the youngest,
whom nobody wanted, because he squinted. He was
highly delighted when the Polish countess or the
protectors of the other two brothers came on a visit
to the hotel at Balbec. For, albeit he was jealous of
his brothers, he was fond of them and could in this
way cultivate his family affections for a few weeks in
the year. Was not the Abbess of Fontevrault
accustomed, deserting her nuns for the occasion, to
come and partake of the hospitality which Louis XIV
offered to that other Mortemart, his mistress,
Madame de Montespan? The boy was still in his first
year at Balbec; he did not as yet know me, but
having heard his comrades of longer standing
supplement                  the         word            'Monsieur,'                 when            they
addressed me, with my surname, he copied them
from the first with an air of satisfaction, whether at


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shewing his familiarity with a person whom he
supposed to be well-known, or at conforming with a
custom of which five minutes earlier he had never
heard but which he felt it to be indispensable that
he should not fail to observe. I could quite well
appreciate the charm that this great 'Palace' might
have for certain persons. It was arranged like a
theatre, and a numerous cast filled it to the doors
with animation. For all that the visitor was only a
sort of spectator, he was perpetually taking part in
the performance, and that not as in one of those
theatres where the actors perform a play among the
audience, but as though the life of the spectator
were going on amid the sumptuous fittings of the
stage.          The         lawn-tennis                 player            might           come            in
wearing a white flannel blazer, the porter would
have put on a blue frock coat with silver braid
before handing him his letters. If this lawn-tennis
player did not choose to walk upstairs, he was
equally involved with the actors in having by his
side, to propel the lift, its attendant no less richly
attired. The corridors on each landing engulfed a


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flying band of nymphlike chambermaids, fair visions
against the sea, at whose modest chambers the
admirers of feminine beauty arrived by cunning
detours. Downstairs, it was the masculine element
that predominated and made this hotel, in view of
the extreme and effortless youth of the servants, a
sort of Judaeo-Christian tragedy given bodily form
and perpetually in performance. And so I could not
help repeating to myself, when I saw them, not
indeed the lines of Racine that had come into my
head at the Princesse de Guermantes's while M. de
Vaugoubert stood watching young secretaries of
embassy greet M. de Charlus, but other lines of
Racine, taken this time not from Esther but from
Athalie: for in the doorway of the hall, what in the
seventeenth century was called the portico, 'a
flourishing race' of young pages clustered, especially
at tea-time, like the young Israelites of Racine's
choruses. But I do not believe that one of them
could have given even the vague answer that Joas
finds to satisfy Athalie when she inquires of the
infant Prince: "What is your office, then?" for they


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had none. At the most, if one had asked of any of
them, like the new Queen: "But all this race, what
do they then, imprisoned in this place?" he might
have said: "I watch the solemn pomp and bear my
part." Now and then one of the young supers would
approach some more important personage, then this
young beauty would rejoin the chorus, and, unless it
were the moment for a spell of contemplative
relaxation, they would proceed with their useless,
reverent, decorative, daily evolutions. For, except
on their 'day off,' 'reared in seclusion from the
world' and never crossing the threshold, they led
the same ecclesiastical existence as the Levites in
Athalie, and as I gazed at that 'young and faithful
troop' playing at the foot of the steps draped with
sumptuous carpets, I felt inclined to ask myself
whether I were entering the Grand Hotel at Balbec
or the Temple of Solomon.


       I went straight up to my room. My thoughts
kept constantly turning to the last days of my
grandmother's illness, to her sufferings which I lived


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over again, intensifying them with that element
which is even harder to endure than the sufferings
of other people, and is added to them by our
merciless pity; when we think that we are merely
reviving the pains of a beloved friend, our pity
exaggerates them; but perhaps it is our pity that is
in     the         right,          more            than          the         sufferers'              own
consciousness of their pains, they being blind to that
tragedy of their own existence which pity sees and
deplores. Certainly my pity would have taken fresh
strength             and         far       exceeded                 my         grandmother's
sufferings had I known then what I did not know
until long afterwards, that my grandmother, on the
eve of her death, in a moment of consciousness and
after making sure that I was not in the room, had
taken Mamma's hand, and, after pressing her
fevered lips to it, had said: "Farewell, my child,
farewell for ever." And this may perhaps have been
the memory upon which my mother never ceased to
gaze so fixedly. Then more pleasant memories
returned to me. She was my grandmother and I was
her grandson. Her facial expressions seemed written


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in a language intended for me alone; she was
everything in my life, other people existed merely in
relation to her, to the judgment that she would pass
upon them; but no, our relations were too fleeting
to have been anything but accidental. She no longer
knew me, I should never see her again. We had not
been created solely for one another, she was a
stranger to me. This stranger was before my eyes at
the moment in the photograph taken of her by
Saint-Loup.                Mamma,                 who           had         met          Albertine,
insisted upon my seeing her, because of the nice
things that she had said about my grandmother and
myself. I had accordingly made an appointment with
her. I told the manager that she was coming, and
asked him to let her wait for me in the drawing-
room. He informed me that he had known her for
years, her and her friends, long before they had
attained 'the age of purity' but that he was annoyed
with them because of certain things that they had
said        about            the         hotel.           "They            can't          be        very
'gentlemanly' if they talk like that. Unless people
have been slandering them." I had no difficulty in


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guessing that 'purity' here meant 'puberty.' As I
waited until it should be time to go down and meet
Albertine, I was keeping my eyes fixed, as upon a
picture which one ceases to see by dint of staring at
it, upon the photograph that Saint-Loup had taken,
when all of a sudden I thought once again: "It's
grandmother, I am her grandson" as a man who has
lost his memory remembers his name, as a sick
man changes his personality. Françoise came in to
tell me that Albertine was there, and, catching sight
of the photograph: "Poor Madame; it's the very
image of her, even the beauty spot on her cheek;
that day the Marquis took her picture, she was very
poorly, she had been taken bad twice. 'Whatever
happens, Françoise,' she said, 'you must never let
my grandson know.' And she kept it to herself, she
was always bright with other people. When she was
by herself, though, I used to find that she seemed
to be in rather monotonous spirits now and then.
But that soon passed away. And then she said to
me, she said: 'If anything were to happen to me, he
ought to have a picture of me to keep. And I have


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never had one done in my life.' So then she sent me
along with a message to the Marquis, and he was
never to let you know that it was she who had
asked him, but could he take her photograph. But
when I came back and told her that he would, she
had changed her mind again, because she was
looking so poorly. 'It would be even worse,' she said
to me, 'than no picture at all.' But she was a clever
one, she was, and in the end she got herself up so
well in that big shady hat that it didn't shew at all
when she was out of the sun. She was very glad to
have that photograph, because at that time she
didn't think she would ever leave Balbec alive. It
was no use my saying to her: 'Madame, it's wrong
to talk like that, I don't like to hear Madame talk like
that,' she had got it into her head. And, lord, there
were plenty days when she couldn't eat a thing.
That was why she used to make Monsieur go and
dine away out in the country with M. le Marquis.
Then, instead of going in to dinner, she would
pretend to be reading a book, and as soon as the
Marquis's carriage had started, up she would go to


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bed. Some days she wanted to send word to
Madame, to come down and see her in time. And
then she was afraid of alarming her, as she had said
nothing to her about it. 'It will be better for her to
stay with her husband, don't you see, Françoise.'"
Looking me in the face, Françoise asked me all of a
sudden if I was 'feeling indisposed.' I said that I was
not; whereupon she: "And you make me waste my
time talking to you. Your visitor has been here all
this time. I must go down and tell her. She is not
the sort of person to have here. Why, a fast one like
that, she may be gone again by now. She doesn't
like to be kept waiting. Oh, nowadays, Mademoiselle
Albertine, she's somebody!" "You are quite wrong,
she is a very respectable person, too respectable for
this place. But go and tell her that I shan't be able
to see her to-day."


       What compassionate declamations I should have
provoked from Françoise if she had seen me cry. I
carefully hid myself from her. Otherwise I should
have had her sympathy. But I gave her mine. We do


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not put ourselves sufficiently in the place of these
poor maidservants who cannot bear to see us cry,
as though crying were bad for us; or bad, perhaps,
for them, for Françoise used to say to me when I
was a child: "Don't cry like that, I don't like to see
you        crying            like        that."           We         dislike           highfalutin
language, asseverations, we are wrong, we close
our hearts to the pathos of the countryside, to the
legend which the poor servant girl, dismissed,
unjustly perhaps, for theft, pale as death, grown
suddenly more humble than if it were a crime
merely to be accused, unfolds, invoking her father's
honesty, her mother's principles, her grandam's
counsels. It is true that those same servants who
cannot bear our tears will have no hesitation in
letting us catch pneumonia, because the maid
downstairs likes draughts and it would not be polite
to her to shut the windows. For it is necessary that
even those who are right, like Françoise, should be
wrong also, so that Justice may be made an
impossible thing. Even the humble pleasures of
servants provoke either the refusal or the ridicule of


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their masters. For it is always a mere nothing, but
foolishly sentimental, unhygienic. And so, they are
in a position to say: "How is it that I ask for only
this one thing in the whole year, and am not allowed
it." And yet the masters will allow them something
far      more           difficult,           which           was          not        stupid           and
dangerous for the servants--or for themselves. To
be      sure,          the        humility             of      the        wretched                maid,
trembling, ready to confess the crime that she has
not committed, saying "I shall leave to-night if you
wish it," is a thing that nobody can resist. But we
must learn also not to remain unmoved, despite the
solemn, menacing fatuity of the things that she
says, her maternal heritage and the dignity of the
family 'kailyard,' before an old cook draped in the
honour of her life and of her ancestry, wielding her
broom like a sceptre, donning the tragic buskin,
stifling her speech with sobs, drawing herself up
with majesty. That afternoon, I remembered or
imagined scenes of this sort which I associated with
our old servant, and from then onwards, in spite of
all the harm that she might do to Albertine, I loved


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Françoise with an affection, intermittent it is true,
but of the strongest kind, the kind that is founded
upon pity.


       To be sure, I suffered agonies all that day, as I
sat gazing at my grandmother's photograph. It
tortured me. Not so acutely, though, as the visit I
received that evening from the manager. After I had
spoken to him about my grandmother, and he had
reiterated his condolences, I heard him say (for he
enjoyed            using           the        words            that        he        pronounced
wrongly):              "Like          the         day         when            Madame                your
grandmother had that sincup, I wanted to tell you
about it, because of the other visitors, don't you
know, it might have given the place a bad name.
She ought really to have left that evening. But she
begged me to say nothing about it and promised me
that she wouldn't have another sincup, or the first
time she had one, she would go. The floor waiter
reported to me that she had had another. But, lord,
you were old friends that we try to please, and so
long as nobody made any complaint." And so my


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grandmother had had syncopes which she had never
mentioned to me. Perhaps at the very moment
when I was being most beastly to her, when she
was obliged, amid her pain, to see that she kept her
temper, so as not to anger me, and her looks, so as
not to be turned out of the hotel. 'Sincup' was a
word which, so pronounced, I should never have
imagined, which might perhaps, applied to other
people, have struck me as ridiculous, but which in
its strange sonorous novelty, like that of an original
discord, long retained the faculty of arousing in me
the most painful sensations.


       Next day I went, at Mamma's request, to lie
down for a little on the sands, or rather among the
dunes, where one is hidden by their folds, and I
knew that Albertine and her friends would not be
able to find me. My drooping eyelids allowed but
one kind of light to pass, all rosy, the light of the
inner walls of the eyes. Then they shut altogether.
Whereupon                  my        grandmother                     appeared                to      me,
seated in an armchair. So feeble she was, she


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seemed to be less alive than other people. And yet I
could hear her breathe; now and again she made a
sign to shew that she had understood what we were
saying, my father and I. But in vain might I take her
in my arms, I failed utterly to kindle a spark of
affection in her eyes, a flush of colour in her cheeks.
Absent from herself, she appeared somehow not to
love me, not to know me, perhaps not to see me. I
could not interpret the secret of her indifference, of
her dejection, of her silent resentment. I drew my
father aside. "You can see, all the same," I said to
him, "there's no doubt about it, she understands
everything perfectly. It is a perfect imitation of life.
If we could have your cousin here, who maintains
that the dead don't live. Why, she's been dead for
more than a year now, and she's still alive. But why
won't she give me a kiss?" "Look her poor head is
drooping again." "But she wants to go, now, to the
Champs-Elysées." "It's madness!" "You really think
it can do her any harm, that she can die any
further? It isn't possible that she no longer loves
me. I keep on hugging her, won't she ever smile at


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me again?" "What can you expect, when people are
dead they are dead."


       A few days later I was able to look with pleasure
at the photograph that Saint-Loup had taken of her;
it did not revive the memory of what Françoise had
told me, because that memory had never left me
and I was growing used to it. But with regard to the
idea that I had received of the state of her health--
so grave, so painful--on that day, the photograph,
still profiting by the ruses that my grandmother had
adopted, which succeeded in taking me in even after
they had been disclosed to me, shewed me her so
smart, so care-free, beneath the hat which partly
hid her face, that I saw her looking less unhappy
and in better health than I had imagined. And yet,
her       cheeks             having            unconsciously                     assumed                an
expression of their own, livid, haggard, like the
expression of an animal that feels that it has been
marked down for slaughter, my grandmother had an
air of being under sentence of death, an air
involuntarily sombre, unconsciously tragic, which


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passed unperceived by me but prevented Mamma
from         ever           looking             at       that         photograph,                    that
photograph which seemed to her a photograph not
so much of her mother as of her mother's disease,
of an insult that the disease was offering to the
brutally buffeted face of my grandmother.


       Then one day I decided to send word to
Albertine that I would see her presently. This was
because, on a morning of intense and premature
heat, the myriad cries of children at play, of bathers
disporting themselves, of newsvendors, had traced
for me in lines of fire, in wheeling, interlacing
flashes, the scorching beach which the little waves
came up one after another to sprinkle with their
coolness; then had begun the symphonic concert
mingled with the splashing of the water, through
which the violins hummed like a swarm of bees that
had strayed out over the sea. At once I had longed
to hear again Albertine's laughter, to see her
friends, those girls outlined against the waves who
had remained in my memory the inseparable charm,


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the typical flora of Balbec; and I had determined to
send a line by Françoise to Albertine, making an
appointment for the following week, while, gently
rising, the sea as each wave uncurled completely
buried in layers of crystal the melody whose phrases
appeared to be separated from one another like
those angel lutanists which on the roof of the Italian
cathedral rise between the peaks of blue porphyry
and foaming jasper. But on the day on which
Albertine came, the weather had turned dull and
cold again, and moreover I had no opportunity of
hearing her laugh; she was in a very bad temper.
"Balbec is deadly dull this year," she said to me. "I
don't mean to stay any longer than I can help. You
know I've been here since Easter, that's more than
a month. There's not a soul here. You can imagine
what fun it is." Notwithstanding the recent rain and
a sky that changed every moment, after escorting
Albertine as far as Epreville, for she was, to borrow
her expression, 'on the run' between that little
watering-place, where Mme. Bontemps had her
villa, and Incarville, where she had been taken 'en


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pension' by Rosemonde's family, I went off by
myself in the direction of the highroad that Mme. de
Villeparisis's carriage had taken when we went for a
drive with my grandmother; pools of water which
the sun, now bright again, had not dried made a
regular quagmire of the ground, and I thought of
my grandmother who, in the old days, could not
walk a yard without covering herself with mud. But
on reaching the road I found a dazzling spectacle.
Where I had seen with my grandmother in the
month of August only the green leaves and, so to
speak, the disposition of the apple-trees, as far as
the eye could reach they were in full bloom,
marvellous in their splendour, their feet in the mire
beneath their ball-dresses, taking no precaution not
to spoil the most marvellous pink satin that was
ever seen, which glittered in the sunlight; the
distant horizon of the sea gave the trees the
background of a Japanese print; if I raised my head
to gaze at the sky through the blossom, which made
its serene blue appear almost violent, the trees
seemed to be drawing apart to reveal the immensity


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of their paradise. Beneath that azure a faint but cold
breeze set the blushing bouquets gently trembling.
Blue tits came and perched upon the branches and
fluttered among the flowers, indulgent, as though it
had been an amateur of exotic art and colours who
had artificially created this living beauty. But it
moved one to tears because, to whatever lengths
the artist went in the refinement of his creation, one
felt that it was natural, that these apple-trees were
there in the heart of the country, like peasants,
upon one of the highroads of France. Then the rays
of the sun gave place suddenly to those of the rain;
they streaked the whole horizon, caught the line of
apple-trees in their grey net. But they continued to
hold aloft their beauty, pink and blooming, in the
wind that had turned icy beneath the drenching
rain: it was a day in spring.




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Chapter TWO


         The mysteries of Albertine--The girls whom she
sees reflected in the glass--The other woman--The
lift-boy--Madame de Cambremer--The pleasures of
M. Nissim Bernard--Outline of the strange character
of Morel--M. de Charlus dines with the Verdurins.


          In my fear lest the pleasure I found in this
solitary excursion might weaken my memory of my
grandmother, I sought to revive this by thinking of
some           great           mental              suffering               that          she          had
undergone; in response to my appeal that suffering
tried to build itself in my heart, threw up vast pillars
there; but my heart was doubtless too small for it, I
had not the strength to bear so great a grief, my
attention was distracted at the moment when it was
approaching completion, and its arches collapsed
before joining as, before they have perfected their
curve, the waves of the sea totter and break.



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       And yet, if only from my dreams when I was
asleep, I might have learned that my grief for my
grandmother's                    death            was         diminishing,                  for       she
appeared in them less crushed by the idea that I
had formed of her non-existence.                                               I saw her an
invalid still, but on the road to recovery, I found her
in better health. And if she made any allusion to
what she had suffered, I stopped her mouth with my
kisses          and          assured              her         that         she          was          now
permanently cured. I should have liked to call the
sceptics to witness that death is indeed a malady
from which one recovers. Only, I no longer found in
my grandmother the rich spontaneity of old times.
Her words were no more than a feeble, docile
response, almost a mere echo of mine; she was
nothing            more           than          the        reflexion              of      my         own
thoughts.


       Incapable as I still was of feeling any fresh
physical               desire,                Albertine                  was             beginning
nevertheless to inspire in me a desire for happiness.
Certain dreams of shared affection, always floating


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on the surface of our minds, ally themselves readily
by a sort of affinity with the memory (provided that
this has already become slightly vague) of a woman
with whom we have taken our pleasure. This
sentiment recalled to me aspects of Albertine's face,
more gentle, less gay, quite different from those
that would have been evoked by physical desire;
and as it was also less pressing than that desire I
would gladly have postponed its realisation until the
following winter, without seeking to see Albertine
again at Balbec, before her departure. But even in
the midst of a grief that is still keen physical desire
will revive. From my bed, where I was made to
spend          hours           every           day         resting,            I     longed             for
Albertine              to       come             and          resume               our         former
amusements.                    Do we not see, in the very room in
which they have lost a child, its parents soon come
together again to give the little angel a baby
brother? I tried to distract my mind from this desire
by going to the window to look at that day's sea. As
in the former year, the seas, from one day to
another, were rarely the same. Nor, however, did


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they at all resemble those of that first year, whether
because we were now in spring with its storms, or
because even if I had come down at the same time
as before, the different, more changeable weather
might have discouraged from visiting this coast
certain seas, indolent, vaporous and fragile, which I
had seen throughout long, scorching days, asleep
upon the beach, their bluish bosoms, only, faintly
stirring, with a soft palpitation, or, as was most
probable, because my eyes, taught by Elstir to
retain precisely those elements that before I had
deliberately rejected, would now gaze for hours at
what in the former year they had been incapable of
seeing. The contrast that used then to strike me so
forcibly between the country drives that I took with
Mme.          de Villeparisis and                             this proximity,                      fluid,
inaccessible, mythological, of the eternal Ocean, no
longer existed for me. And there were days now
when, on the contrary, the sea itself seemed almost
rural. On the days, few and far between, of really
fine weather, the heat had traced upon the waters,
as it might be across country, a dusty white track,


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at the end of which the pointed mast of a fishing-
boat stood up like a village steeple. A tug, of which
one could see only the funnel, was smoking in the
distance like a factory amid the fields, while alone
against the horizon a convex patch of white,
sketched there doubtless by a sail but apparently a
solid plastered surface, made one think of the sunlit
wall of some isolated building, an hospital or a
school. And the clouds and the wind, on days when
these were added to the sun, completed if not the
error of judgment, at any rate the illusion of the first
glance, the suggestion that it aroused in the
imagination. For the alternation of sharply defined
patches of colour like those produced in the country
by the proximity of different crops, the rough,
yellow, almost muddy irregularities of the marine
surface, the banks, the slopes that hid from sight a
vessel upon which a crew of nimble sailors seemed
to be reaping a harvest, all this upon stormy days
made the ocean a thing as varied, as solid, as
broken, as populous, as civilised as the earth with
its carriage roads over which I used to travel, and


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was soon to be travelling again. And once, unable
any longer to hold out against my desire, instead of
going back to bed I put on my clothes and started
off to Incarville, to find Albertine. I would ask her to
come with me to Douville, where I would pay calls
at Féterne upon Mme. de Cambremer and at la
Raspelière upon Mme. Verdurin. Albertine would
wait for me meanwhile upon the beach and we
would return together after dark. I went to take the
train on the local light railway, of which I had picked
up, the time before, from Albertine and her friends
all the nicknames current in the district, where it
was known as the Twister because of its numberless
windings, the Crawler because the train never
seemed to move, the Transatlantic because of a
horrible siren which it sounded to clear people off
the line, the Decauville and the Funi, albeit there
was nothing funicular about it but because it
climbed            the         cliff,        and,          although               not,         strictly
speaking, a Decauville, had a 60 centimetre gauge,
the B. A. G. because it ran between Balbec and
Grattevast via Angerville, the Tram and the T. S. N.


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because it was a branch of the Tramways of
Southern               Normandy.                   I      took          my          seat          in       a
compartment in which I was alone; it was a day of
glorious sunshine, and stiflingly hot; I drew down
the blue blind which shut off all but a single ray of
sunlight. But immediately I beheld my grandmother,
as she had appeared sitting in the train, on our
leaving Paris for Balbec, when, in her sorrow at
seeing me drink beer, she had preferred not to look,
to shut her eyes and pretend to be asleep. I, who in
my childhood had been unable to endure her
anguish when my grandfather tasted brandy, I had
inflicted this anguish upon her, not merely of seeing
me accept, at the invitation of another, a drink
which she regarded as bad for me, I had forced her
to leave me free to swill it down to my heart's
content, worse still, by my bursts of passion, my
choking fits, I had forced her to help, to advise me
to do so, with a supreme resignation of which I saw
now in my memory the mute, despairing image, her
eyes closed to shut out the sight. So vivid a memory
had, like the stroke of a magic wand, restored the


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mood that I had been gradually outgrowing for
some time past; what had I to do with Rosemondé
when          my         lips       were          wholly            possessed                by        the
desperate longing to kiss a dead woman, what had I
to say to the Cambremers and Verdurins when my
heart was beating so violently because at every
moment there was being renewed in it the pain that
my grandmother had suffered. I could not remain in
the compartment. As soon as the train stopped at
Maineville-la-Teinturiere, abandoning all my plans, I
alighted.               Maineville                 had            of         late           acquired
considerable importance and a reputation all its
own, because a director of various casinos, a caterer
in pleasure, had set up, just outside it, with a
luxurious display of bad taste that could vie with
that of any smart hotel, an establishment to which
we shall return anon, and which was, to put it
briefly, the first brothel for 'exclusive' people that it
had occurred to anyone to build upon the coast of
France. It was the only one. True, every port has its
own, but intended for sailors only, and for lovers of
the picturesque whom it amuses to see, next door


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to the primeval parish church, the bawd, hardly less
ancient,            venerable                 and          moss-grown,                      standing
outside her ill-famed door, waiting for the return of
the fishing fleet.


       Hurrying past the glittering house of 'pleasure,'
insolently erected there despite the protests which
the heads of families had addressed in vain to the
mayor, I reached the cliff and followed its winding
paths in the direction of Balbec. I heard, without
responding to it, the appeal of the hawthorns.
Neighbours,                 in      humbler               circumstances,                      of       the
blossoming apple trees, they found them very
coarse, without denying the fresh complexion of the
rosy-petalled daughters of those wealthy brewers of
cider. They knew that, with a lesser dowry, they
were more sought after, and were attractive enough
by themselves in their tattered whiteness.


       On my return, the hotel porter handed me a
black-bordered letter in which the Marquis and the
Marquise             de        Gonneville,                 the        Vicomte              and         the


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Vicomtesse                 d'Amfreville,                   the         Comte              and          the
Comtesse               de       Berneville,                the        Marquis              and         the
Marquise de Graincourt, the Comte d'Amenoncourt,
the Comtesse de Maineville, the Comte and the
Comtesse de Franquetot, the Comtesse de Chaverny
née d'Aigleville, begged to announce, and from
which I understood at length why it had been sent
to me when I caught sight of the names of the
Marquise de Cambremer née du Mesnil la Guichard,
the Marquis and the Marquise de Cambremer, and
saw that the deceased, a cousin of the Cambremers,
was         named               Eléonore-Euphrasie-Humbertine                                           de
Cambremer, Comtesse de Criquetot. In the whole
extent of this provincial family, the enumeration of
which filled the closely printed lines, not a single
commoner, and on the other hand not a single title
that one knew, but the entire muster-roll of the
nobles of the region who made their names--those
of all the interesting spots in the neighbourhood--
ring out their joyous endings in ville, in court,
sometimes on a duller note (in tot). Garbed in the
roof-tiles of their castle or in the roughcast of their


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parish church, their nodding heads barely reaching
above the vault of the nave or banqueting hall, and
then only to cap themselves with the Norman
lantern or the dovecot of the pepperpot turret, they
gave the impression of having sounded the rallying
call to all the charming villages straggling or
scattered over a radius of fifty leagues, and to have
paraded them in massed formation, without one
absentee, one intruder, on the compact, rectangular
draught-board of the aristocratic letter edged with
black.


       My mother had gone upstairs to her room,
meditating the phrase of Madame de Sévigné: "I
see nothing of the people who seek to distract me
from you; the truth of the matter is that they are
seeking to prevent me from thinking of you, and
that annoys me."--because the chief magistrate had
told her that she ought to find some distraction. To
me he whispered: "That's the Princesse de Parme!"
My fears were dispelled when I saw that the woman
whom the magistrate pointed out to me bore not


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the slightest resemblance to Her Royal Highness.
But as she had engaged a room in which to spend
the       night         after         paying            a      visit        to      Mme.                de
Luxembourg, the report of her coming had the effect
upon many people of making them take each
newcomer for the Princesse de Parme--and upon me
of making me go and shut myself up in my attic.


       I had no wish to remain there by myself. It was
barely four o'clock. I asked Françoise to go and find
Albertine, so that she might spend the rest of the
afternoon with me.


       It would be untrue, I think, to say that there
were         already              symptoms                  of       that          painful            and
perpetual mistrust which Albertine was to inspire in
me,         not         to        mention               the          special            character,
emphatically Gomorrhan, which that mistrust was to
assume. Certainly, even that afternoon--but this
was not the first time--I grew anxious as I was kept
waiting. Françoise, once she had started, stayed
away so long that I began to despair. I had not


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lighted the lamp. The daylight had almost gone. The
wind was making the flag over the casino flap. And,
fainter still in the silence of the beach over which
the tide was rising, and like a voice rendering and
enhancing the troubling emptiness of this restless,
unnatural hour, a little barrel organ that had
stopped outside the hotel was playing Viennese
waltzes.              At         length              Françoise                  arrived,               but
unaccompanied. "I have been as quick as I could
but she wouldn't come because she didn't think she
was looking smart enough. If she was five minutes
painting herself and powdering herself, she was an
hour by the clock. You'll be having a regular
scentshop in here. She's coming, she stayed behind
to tidy herself at the glass. I thought I should find
her here." There was still a long time to wait before
Albertine appeared. But the gaiety, the charm that
she shewed on this occasion dispelled my sorrow.
She informed me (in contradiction of what she had
said the other day) that she would be staying for
the whole season and asked me whether we could
not arrange, as in the former year, to meet daily. I


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told her that at the moment I was too melancholy
and that I would rather send for her from time to
time at the last moment, as I did in Paris. "If ever
you're feeling worried, or feel that you want me, do
not hesitate," she told me, "to send for me, I shall
come immediately, and if you are not afraid of its
creating a scandal in the hotel, I shall stay as long
as you like." Françoise, in bringing her to me, had
assumed the joyous air she wore whenever she had
gone out of her way to please me and had been
successful.                    But         Albertine               herself            contributed
nothing to her joy, and the very next day Françoise
was to greet me with the profound observation:
"Monsieur ought not to see that young lady. I know
quite well the sort she is, she'll land you in trouble."
As I escorted Albertine to the door I saw in the
lighted dining-room the Princesse de Parme. I
merely gave her a glance, taking care not to be
seen. But I must say that I found a certain grandeur
in the royal politeness which had made me smile at
the Guermantes'. It is a fundamental rule that
sovereign princes are at home wherever they are,


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and this rule is conventionally expressed in obsolete
and useless customs such as that which requires the
host to carry his hat in his hand, in his own house,
to shew that he is not in his own home but in the
Prince's. Now the Princesse de Parme may not have
formulated this idea to herself, but she was so
imbued with it that all her actions, spontaneously
invented to suit the circumstances, pointed to it.
When she rose from table she handed a lavish tip to
Aimé, as though he had been there solely for her
and she were rewarding, before leaving a country
house, a footman who had been detailed to wait
upon her. Nor did she stop at the tip, but with a
gracious smile bestowed on him a few friendly,
flattering words, with a store of which her mother
had provided her. Another moment, and she would
have told him that, just as the hotel was perfectly
managed, so Normandy was a garden of roses and
that she preferred France to any other country in
the world. Another coin slipped from the Princess's
fingers, for the wine waiter, for whom she had sent
and to whom she made a point of expressing her


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satisfaction like a general after an inspection. The
lift-boy had come up at that moment with a
message for her; he too received a little speech, a
smile         and          a       tip,        all       this         interspersed                   with
encouraging and humble words intended to prove to
them that she was only one of themselves. As Aimé,
the wine waiter, the lift-boy and the rest felt that it
would be impolite not to grin from ear to ear at a
person who smiled at them, she was presently
surrounded by a cluster of servants with whom she
chatted kindly; such ways being unfamiliar in smart
hotels, the people who passed by, not knowing who
she was, thought they beheld a permanent resident
at Balbec, who, because of her humble origin, or for
professional reasons (she was perhaps the wife of
an agent for champagne) was less different from the
domestics than the really smart visitors. As for me,
I thought of the palace at Parma, of the counsels,
partly         religious,              partly          political,            given           to       this
Princess, who behaved towards the lower orders as
though she had been obliged to conciliate them in
order to reign over them one day. All the more, as if


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she were already reigning.


       I went upstairs again to my room, but I was not
alone there. I could hear some one softly playing
Schumann. No doubt it happens at times that
people, even those whom we love best, become
saturated with the melancholy or irritation that
emanates               from           us.        There           is      nevertheless                   an
inanimate object which is capable of a power of
exasperation to which no human being will ever
attain: to wit, a piano.


       Albertine had made me take a note of the dates
on which she would be going away for a few days to
visit various girl friends, and had made me write
down their addresses as well, in case I should want
her on one of those evenings, for none of them lived
very far away. This meant that when I tried to find
her, going from one girl to another, she became
more and more entwined in ropes of flowers. I must
confess that many of her friends--I was not yet in
love with her--gave me, at one watering-place or


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another, moments of pleasure. These obliging young
comrades did not seem to me to be very many. But
recently I have thought it over, their names have
recurred to me. I counted that, in that one season,
a dozen conferred on me their ephemeral favours. A
name came back to me later, which made thirteen. I
then, with almost a child's delight in cruelty, dwelt
upon that number. Alas, I realised that I had
forgotten the first of them all, Albertine who no
longer existed and who made the fourteenth.


       I had, to resume the thread of my narrative,
written down the names and addresses of the girls
with whom I should find her upon the days when
she was not to be at Incarville, but privately had
decided that I would devote those days rather to
calling upon Mme. Verdurin. In any case, our desire
for different women varies in intensity. One evening
we cannot bear to let one out of our sight who, after
that, for the next month or two, will never enter our
mind. Then there is the law of change, for a study of
which this is not the place, under which, after an


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over-exertion of the flesh, the woman whose image
haunts our momentary senility is one to whom we
would barely give more than a kiss on the brow. As
for Albertine, I saw her seldom, and only upon the
very infrequent evenings when I felt that I could not
live without her. If this desire seized me when she
was too far from Balbec for Françoise to be able to
go and fetch her, I used to send the lift-boy to
Egreville, to La Sogne, to Saint-Frichoux, asking him
to finish his work a little earlier than usual. He would
come into my room, but would leave the door open
for, albeit he was conscientious at his 'job' which
was pretty hard, consisting in endless cleanings
from five o'clock in the morning, he could never
bring himself to make the effort to shut a door, and,
if one were to remark to him that it was open, would
turn back and, summoning up all his strength, give
it a gentle push. With the democratic pride that
marked him, a pride to which, in more liberal
careers, the members of a profession that is at all
numerous never attain, barristers, doctors and men
of letters speaking simply of a 'brother' barrister,


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doctor or man of letters, he, employing, and rightly,
a term that is confined to close corporations like the
Academy, would say to me in speaking of a page
who was in charge of the lift upon alternate days: "I
shall get my colleague to take my place." This pride
did not prevent him from accepting, with a view to
increasing what he called his 'salary,' remuneration
for his errands, a fact which had made Françoise
take a dislike to him: "Yes, the first time you see
him you would give him the sacrament without
confession, but there are days when his tongue is as
smooth as a prison door. It's your money he's
after." This was the category in which she had so
often in-cluded Eulalie, and in which, alas (when I
think of all the trouble that was one day to come of
it), she already placed Albertine, because she saw
me        often          asking             Mamma,                 on        behalf           of       my
impecunious friend, for trinkets and other little
presents, which Françoise held to be inexcusable
because             Mme.            Bontemps                 had          only         a      general
servant.            A      moment                later         the         lift-boy,            having
removed what I should have called his livery and he


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called his tunic, appeared wearing a straw hat,
carrying a cane, holding himself stiffly erect, for his
mother            had         warned              him         never           to       adopt           the
'working-class' or 'pageboy' style. Just as, thanks to
books, all knowledge is open to a work-ing man,
who ceases to be such when he has finished his
work, so, thanks to a 'boater' hat and a pair of
gloves, elegance became accessible to the lift-boy
who, having ceased for the evening to take the
visitors upstairs, imagined himself, like a young
surgeon who has taken off his overall, or Serjeant
Saint-Loup out of uniform, a typical young man
about town. He was not for that matter lacking in
ambition, or in talent either in manipu-lating his
machine and not bringing you to a standstill
between two floors.                                  But his vocabulary was
defective. I credited him with ambition because he
said in speaking of the porter, under whom he
served: "My porter," in the same tone in which a
man who owned what the page would have called a
'private mansion' in Paris would have referred to his
footman. As for the lift-boy's vocabulary, it is


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curious that anybody who heard people, fifty times a
day, calling for the 'lift,' should never himself call it
anything but a 'left.' There were certain things about
this boy that were extremely annoying: whatever I
might be saying to him he would interrupt with a
phrase: "I should say so!" or "I say!" which seemed
either to imply that my remark was so obvious that
anybody would have thought of it, or else to take all
the credit for it to himself, as though it were he that
was drawing my attention to the subject. "I should
say so!" or "I say!" exclaimed with the utmost
emphasis, issued from his lips every other minute,
over matters to which he had never given a
thought, a trick which irritated me so much that I
immediately began to say the opposite to shew him
that he knew nothing about it. But to my second
assertion, albeit it was incompatible with the first,
he replied none the less stoutly: "I should say so!"
"I say!" as though these words were inevitable. I
found it difficult, also, to forgive him the trick of
employing certain terms proper to his calling, which
would therefore have sounded perfectly correct in


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their literal sense, in a figurative sense only, which
gave them an air of feeble witticism, for instance
the verb to pedal. He never used it when he had
gone anywhere on his bicycle. But if, on foot, he had
hurried to arrive somewhere in time, then, to
indicate that he had walked fast, he would exclaim:
"I should say I didn't half pedal!" The lift-boy was on
the small side, clumsily built and by no means good
looking. This did not prevent him, whenever one
spoke to him of some tall, slim, handsome young
man, from saying: "Oh, yes, I know, a fellow who is
just my height." And one day when I was expecting
him to bring me the answer to a message, hearing
somebody come upstairs, I had in my impatience
opened the door of my room and caught sight of a
page as beautiful as Endymion, with incredibly
perfect features, who was bringing a message to a
lady whom I did not know. When the lift-boy
returned, in telling him how impatiently I had waited
for the answer, I mentioned to him that I had
thought I heard him come upstairs but that it had
turned out to be a page from the Hôtel de


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Normandie. "Oh, yes, I know," he said, "they have
only the one, a boy about my build. He's so like me
in face, too, that we're always being mistaken;
anybody would think he was my brother." Lastly, he
always wanted to appear to have understood you
perfectly from the first second, which meant that as
soon as you asked him to do anything he would say:
"Yes, yes, yes, yes, I understand all that," with a
precision and a tone of intelligence which for some
time deceived me; but other people, as we get to
know them, are like a metal dipped in an acid bath,
and we see them gradually lose their good qualities
(and their bad qualities too, at times). Before giving
him my instructions, I saw that he had left the door
open; I pointed this out to him, I was afraid that
people might hear us; he acceded to my request
and returned, having reduced the gap. "Anything to
oblige. But there's nobody on this floor except us
two." Immediately I heard one, then a second, then
a third person go by. This annoyed me partly
because of the risk of my being overheard, but more
still because I could see that it did not in the least


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surprise him and was a perfectly normal occurrence.
"Yes, that'll be the maid next door going for her
things. Oh, that's of no importance, it's the bottler
putting away his keys. No, no, it's nothing, you can
say what you want, it's my colleague just going on
duty." Then, as the reasons that all these people
had for passing did not diminish my dislike of the
thought that they might overhear me, at a formal
order from me he went, not to shut the door, which
was beyond the strength of this bicyclist who longed
for a 'motor,' but to push it a little closer to. "Now
we shall be quite quiet." So quiet were we that an
American lady burst in and withdrew with apologies
for having mistaken the number of her room. "You
are going to bring this young lady back with you," I
told him, after first going and banging the door with
all my might (which brought in another page to see
whether a window had been left open). "You
remember                the        name:             Mlle.          Albertine              Simonet.
Anyhow, it's on the envelope. You need only say to
her that it's from me. She will be delighted to
come," I added, to encourage him and preserve a


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scrap of my own self-esteem.                                         "I should say so!"
"Not at all, there is not the slightest reason to
suppose that she will be glad to come. It's a great
nuisance               getting              here            from            Berneville."                  "I
understand!" "You will tell her to come with you."
"Yes, yes, yes, yes, I understand perfectly," he
replied, in that sharp, precise tone which had long
ceased to make a 'good impression' upon me
because I knew that it was almost mechanical and
covered            with         its      apparent               clearness               plenty            of
uncertainty and stupidity. "When will you be back?"
"Haven't any too much time," said the lift-boy, who,
carrying to extremes the grammatical rule that
forbids the repetition of personal pronouns before
coordinate verbs, omitted the pronoun altogether.
"Can go there all right. Leave was stopped this
afternoon, because there was a dinner for twenty at
luncheon. And it was my turn off duty to-day. So it's
all right if I go out a bit this evening. Take my bike
with me. Get there in no time." And an hour later he
reappeared and said: "Monsieur's had to wait, but
the young lady's come with me. She's down below."


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"Oh, thanks very much; the porter won't be cross
with me?" "Monsieur Paul? Doesn't even know
where I've been. The head of the door himself can't
say a word." But once, after I had told him: "You
absolutely must bring her back with you," he
reported to me with a smile: "You know, I couldn't
find her. She's not there. Couldn't wait any longer;
was afraid of getting it like my colleague who was
'missed from the hotel" (for the lift-boy, who used
the word 'rejoin' of a profession which one joined for
the first time, "I should like to rejoin the post-
office," to make up for this, or to mitigate the
calamity, were his own career at stake, or to
insinuate it more delicately and treacherously were
the victim some one else, elided the prefix and said:
"I know he's been 'missed"). It was not with any evil
intent that he smiled, but from sheer timidity. He
thought that he was diminishing the magnitude of
his crime by making a joke of it. In the same way, if
he had said to me: "You know, I couldn't find her,"
this did not mean that he really thought that I knew
it already. On the contrary, he was all too certain


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that I did not know it, and, what was more, was
afraid to tell me. And so he said 'you know' to ward
off the terror which menaced him as he uttered the
words that were to bring me the knowledge. We
ought never to lose our tempers with people who,
when we find fault with them, begin to titter. They
do so not because they are laughing at us, but
because they are trembling lest we should be angry.
Let us shew all pity and tenderness to those who
laugh. For all the world like a stroke, the lift-boy's
anxiety had wrought in him not merely an apoplectic
flush but an alteration in his speech which had
suddenly become familiar. He wound up by telling
me that Albertine was not at Egreville, that she
would not be coming back there before nine o'clock,
and that if betimes (which meant, by chance) she
came back earlier, my message would be given her,
and in any case she would be with me before one
o'clock in the morning.


       [Translator's note: In the French text of Sodome
et Gomorrhe, Volume I ends at this point.]


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       It was not this evening, however, that my cruel
mistrust began to take solid form. No, to make no
mystery about it, although the incident did not occur
until some weeks later, it arose out of a remark
made by Cottard.                           Albertine and her friends had
insisted that day upon dragging me to the casino at
Incarville where, as luck would have it, I should not
have joined them (having intended to go and see
Mme. Verdurin who had invited me again and
again), had I not been held up at Incarville itself by
a breakdown of the tram which it would take a
considerable time to repair. As I strolled up and
down waiting for the men to finish working at it, I
found myself all of a sudden face to face with Doctor
Cottard, who had come to Incarville to see a
patient. I almost hesitated to greet him as he had
not answered any of my letters. But friendship does
not express itself in the same way in different
people. Not having been brought up to observe the


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same fixed rules of behaviour as well-bred people,
Cottard was full of good intentions of which one
knew nothing, even denying their existence, until
the day when he had an opportunity of displaying
them. He apologised, had indeed received my
letters,          had         reported              my         whereabouts                    to       the
Verdurins who were most anxious to see me and
whom he urged me to go and see. He even
proposed to take me to them there and then, for he
was waiting for the little local train to take him back
there for dinner. As I hesitated and he had still
some time before his train ( for there was bound to
be still a considerable delay), I made him come with
me to the little casino, one of those that had struck
me as being so gloomy on the evening of my first
arrival, now filled with the tumult of the girls, who,
in the absence of male partners, were dancing
together. Andrée came sliding along the floor
towards me; I was meaning to go off with Cottard in
a moment to the Verdurins', when I definitely
declined his offer, seized by an irresistible desire to
stay with Albertine. The fact was, I had just heard


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her laugh. And her laugh at once suggested the rosy
flesh, the fragrant portals between which it had just
made its way, seeming also, as strong, sensual and
revealing as the scent of geraniums, to carry with it
some          microscopic                  particles             of      their         substance,
irritant and secret.


       One of the girls, a stranger to me, sat down at
the piano, and Andrée invited Albertine to waltz with
her. Happy in the thought that I was going to
remain in this little casino with these girls, I
remarked to Cottard how well they danced together.
But he, taking the professional point of view of a
doctor and with an ill-breeding which overlooked the
fact that they were my friends, although he must
have seen me shaking hands with them, replied:
"Yes, but parents are very rash to allow their
daughters to form such habits. I should certainly
never let mine come here. Are they nice-looking,
though? I can't see their faces. There now, look," he
went on, pointing to Albertine and Andrée who were
waltzing slowly, tightly clasped together, "I have left


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my glasses behind and I don't see very well, but
they        are         certainly              keenly             roused.             It      is       not
sufficiently               known              that          women                derive            most
excitement from their breasts. And theirs, as you
see, are completely touching." And indeed the
contact had been unbroken between the breasts of
Andrée and of Albertine. I do not know whether they
heard or guessed Cottard's observation, but they
gently broke the contact while continuing to waltz.
At that moment Andrée said something to Albertine,
who laughed, the same deep and penetrating laugh
that I had heard before. But all that it wafted to me
this time was a feeling of pain; Albertine appeared
to be revealing by it, to be making Andrée share
some exquisite, secret thrill. It rang out like the first
or the last strains of a ball to which one has not
been invited. I left the place with Cottard, distracted
by his conversation, thinking only at odd moments
of the scene I had just witnessed. This does not
mean that Cottard's conversation was interesting. It
had indeed, at that moment, become bitter, for we
had just seen Doctor du Boulbon go past without


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noticing us. He had come down to spend some time
on the other side of Balbec bay, where he was
greatly in demand. Now, albeit Cottard was in the
habit of declaring that he did no professional work
during the holidays, he had hoped to build up a
select practice along the coast, a hope which du
Boulbon's                    presence                    there                 doomed                    to
disappointment. Certainly, the Balbec doctor could
not stand in Cottard's way. He was merely a
thoroughly                  conscientious                      doctor              who             knew
everything, and to whom you could not mention the
slightest             irritation              of       the          skin          without               his
immediately prescribing, in a complicated formula,
the ointment, lotion or liniment that would put you
right. As Marie Gineste used to say, in her charming
speech, he knew how to 'charm' cuts and sores. But
he was in no way eminent. He had indeed caused
Cottard some slight annoyance. The latter, now that
he was anxious to exchange his Chair for that of
Therapeutics, had begun to specialise in toxic
actions. These, a perilous innovation in medicine,
give an excuse for changing the labels in the


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chemists'              shops,             where             every            preparation                  is
declared to be in no way toxic, unlike its substitutes,
and indeed to be disintoxicant. It is the fashionable
cry; at the most there may survive below in illegible
lettering, like the faint trace of an older fashion, the
assurance that the preparation has been carefully
disinfected. Toxic actions serve also to reassure the
patient, who learns with joy that his paralysis is
merely a toxic disturbance. Now, a Grand Duke who
had come for a few days to Balbec and whose eye
was extremely swollen had sent for Cottard who, in
return for a wad of hundred-franc notes (the
Professor refused to see anyone for less), had put
down the inflammation to a toxic condition and
prescribed a disintoxicant treatment. As the swelling
did not go down, the Grand Duke fell back upon the
general practitioner of Balbec, who in five minutes
had removed a speck of dust. The following day, the
swelling had gone. A celebrated specialist in nervous
diseases was, however, a more dangerous rival. He
was a rubicund, jovial person, since, for one thing,
the constant society of nervous wrecks did not


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prevent him from enjoying excellent health, but also
so as to reassure his patients by the hearty
merriment of his 'Good morning' and 'Good-bye,'
while quite ready to lend the strength of his
muscular arms to fastening them in strait-waistcoats
later on. Nevertheless, whenever you spoke to him
at a party, whether of politics or of literature, he
would listen to you with a kindly attention, as
though he were saying: "What is it all about?"
without at once giving an opinion, as though it were
a matter for consultation. But anyhow he, whatever
his talent might be, was a specialist. And so the
whole of Cottard's rage was heaped upon du
Boulbon. But I soon bade good-bye to the Verdurins'
professional friend, and returned to Balbec, after
promising him that I would pay them a visit before
long.


       The mischief that his remarks about Albertine
and Andrée had done me was extreme, but its worst
effects were not immediately felt by me, as happens
with those forms of poisoning which begin to act


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only after a certain time.


       Albertine, on the night after the lift-boy had
gone           in       search              of        her,          did          not          appear,
notwithstanding his assurances. Certainly, personal
charm is a less frequent cause of love than a speech
such as: "No, this evening I shall not be free." We
barely notice this speech if we are with friends; we
are gay all the evening, a certain image never
enters our mind; during those hours it remains
dipped in the necessary solution; when we return
home we find the plate developed and perfectly
clear. We become aware that life is no longer the life
which we would have surrendered for a trifle the
day before, because, even if we continue not to fear
death, we no longer dare think of a parting.


       From, however, not one o'clock in the morning
(the limit fixed by the lift-boy), but three o'clock, I
no longer felt as in former times the anguish of
seeing the chance of her coming diminish. The
certainty that she would not now come brought me


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a complete, refreshing calm; this night was simply a
night like all the rest during which I did not see her,
such was the idea from which I started. After which,
the thought that I should see her in the morning, or
some other day, outlining itself upon the blank
which I submissively accepted, became pleasant.
Sometimes, during these nights of waiting, our
anguish is due to a drug which we have taken. The
sufferer, misinterpreting his own symptoms, thinks
that he is anxious about the woman who fails to
appear. Love is engendered in these cases, as are
certain           nervous               maladies,                by         the         inaccurate
explanation of a state of discomfort. An explanation
which it is useless to correct, at any rate so far as
love is concerned, a sentiment which (whatever its
cause) is invariably in error.


       Next day, when Albertine wrote to me that she
had only just got back to Epreville, and so had not
received my note in time, and was coming, if she
might, to see me that evening, behind the words of
her letter, as behind those that she had said to me


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once over the telephone, I thought I could detect
the presence of pleasures, of people whom she had
preferred to me.                        Once again, I was stirred from
head to foot by the painful longing to know what she
could have been doing, by the latent love which we
always carry within us; I almost thought for a
moment that it was going to attach me to Albertine,
but it confined itself to a stationary throbbing, the
last echo of which died away without the machine's
having been set in motion.


       I had failed during my first visit to Balbec--and
perhaps, for that matter, Andrée had failed equally--
to understand Albertine's character. I had put it
down as frivolous, but had not known whether our
combined               supplications                   might            not         succeed               in
keeping her with us and making her forego a
garden-party, a donkey ride, a picnic. During my
second visit to Balbec, I began to suspect that this
frivolity was only for show, the garden-party a mere
screen, if not an invention. She shewed herself in
various colours in the following incident (by which I


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mean the incident as seen by me, from my side of
the glass which was by no means transparent, and
without my having any means of determining what
reality there was on the other side). Albertine was
making me the most passionate protestations of
affection. She looked at the time because she had
to go and call upon a lady who was at home, it
appeared,               every           afternoon                at      five        o'clock,            at
Infreville. Tormented by suspicion, and feeling at
the same time far from well, I asked Albertine, I
implored her to remain with me. It was impossible
(and indeed she could wait only five minutes longer)
because it would annoy the lady who was far from
hospitable, highly susceptible and, said Albertine, a
perfect nuisance. "But one can easily cut a call."
"No, my aunt has always told me that the chief
thing is politeness." "But I have so often seen you
being impolite." "It's not the same thing, the lady
would be angry with me and would say nasty things
about me to my aunt. I'm pretty well in her bad
books already. She expects me to go and see her."
"But if she's at home every day?" Here Albertine,


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feeling that she was caught, changed her line of
argument. "So she is at home every day. But to-day
I've made arrangements to meet some other girls
there. It will be less boring that way." "So then,
Albertine, you prefer this lady and your friends to
me, since, rather than miss paying an admittedly
boring call, you prefer to leave me here alone, sick
and wretched?" "I don't care if it is boring. I'm going
for their sake. I shall bring them home in my trap.
Otherwise they won't have any way of getting
back." I pointed out to Albertine that there were
trains from Infreville up to ten o'clock at night.
"Quite true, but don't you see, it is possible that we
may be asked to stay to dinner. She is very
hospitable." "Very well then, you won't." "I should
only make my aunt angry." "Besides, you can dine
with her and catch the ten o'clock train." "It's
cutting it rather fine." "Then I can never go and dine
in town and come back by train. But listen,
Albertine. We are going to do something quite
simple, I feel that^the fresh air will do me good;
since you can't give up your lady, I am going to


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come with you to Infreville. Don't be alarmed, I
shan't go as far as the Tour Elisabeth" (the lady's
villa), "I shall see neither the lady nor your friends."
Albertine started as though she had received a
violent blow. For a moment, she was unable to
speak. She explained that the sea bathing was not
doing her any good. "If you don't want me to come
with you?" "How can you say such a thing, you
know there's nothing I enjoy more than going out
with you." A sudden change of tactics had occurred.
"Since we are going for a drive together," she said
to me, "why not go out in the other direction, we
might dine together. It would be so nice. After all,
that side of Balbec is much the prettier. I'm getting
sick of Infreville and all those little spinach-bed
places." "But your aunt's friend will be annoyed if
you don't go and see her." "Very well, let her be."
"No, it is wrong to annoy people." "But she won't
even notice that I'm not there, she has people every
day; I can go to-morrow, the next day, next week,
the week after, it's exactly the same." "And what
about your friends?" "Oh, they've cut me often


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enough. It's my turn now." "But from the side you
suggest there's no train back after nine." "Well,
what's the matter with that? Nine will do perfectly.
Besides, one need never think about getting back.
We can always find a cart, a bike, if the worse
comes to the worst, we have legs." "We can always
find, Albertine, how you go on! Out Infreville way,
where the villages run into one another, well and
good. But the other way, it's a very different
matter." "That way too. I promise to bring you back
safe and sound." I felt that Albertine was giving up
for my sake some plan arranged beforehand of
which she refused to tell me, and that there was
some one else who would be as unhappy as I was.
Seeing that what she had intended to do was out of
the question, since I insisted upon accompanying
her, she gave it up altogether. She knew that the
loss was not irremediable. For, like all women who
have a number of irons in the fire, she had one
resource that never failed: suspicion and jealousy.
Of course she did not seek to arouse them, quite the
contrary. But lovers are so suspicious that they


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instantly scent out falsehood. With the result that
Albertine, being no better than anyone else, knew
by experience (without for a moment imagining that
she owed her experience to jealousy) that she could
always be certain of meeting people again after she
had failed to keep an appointment. The stranger
whom she was deserting for me would be hurt,
would love her all the more for that (though
Albertine did not know that this was the reason),
and, so as not to prolong the agony, would return to
her of his own accord, as I should have done. But I
had no desire either to give pain to another, or to
tire myself, or to enter upon the terrible course of
investigation, of multiform, unending vigilance. "No,
Albertine, I do not wish to spoil your pleasure, go to
your lady at Infreville, or rather to the person you
really mean to see, it is all the same to me. The real
reason why I am not coming with you is that you do
not wish it, the outing you would be taking with me
is not the one you meant to take, which is proved
by your having contradicted yourself at least five
times without noticing it." Poor Albertine was afraid


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that her contradictions, which she had not noticed,
had been more serious than they were. Not knowing
exactly what fibs she had told me: "It is quite on the
cards that I did contradict myself.                                                The sea air
makes me lose my head altogether. I'm always
calling things by the wrong names." And (what
proved to me that she would not, now, require
many tender affirmations to make me believe her) I
felt a stab in my heart as I listened to this admission
of what I had but faintly imagined.                                                  "Very well,
that's settled, I'm off," she said in a tragic tone, not
without looking at the time to see whether she was
making herself late for the other person, now that I
had provided her with an excuse for not spending
the evening with myself. "It's too bad of you. I alter
all my plans to spend a nice, long evening with you,
and it's you that won't have it, and you accuse me
of telling lies. I've never known you to be so cruel.
The sea shall be my tomb. I will never see you any
more." (My heart leaped at these words, albeit I was
certain that she would come again next day, as she
did.) "I shall drown myself, I shall throw myself into


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the water." "Like Sappho." "There you go, insulting
me again. You suspect not only what I say but what
I do." "But, my lamb, I didn't mean anything, I
swear to you, you know Sappho flung herself into
the sea." "Yes, yes, you have no faith in me." She
saw that it was twenty minutes to the hour by the
clock; she was afraid of missing her appointment,
and choosing the shortest form of farewell (for
which as it happened she apologised by coming to
see        me         again            next          day,          the         other           person
presumably not being free then), she dashed from
the       room,           crying:            "Good-bye                  for       ever,"           in      a
heartbroken                    tone.             And            perhaps                she           was
heartbroken. For knowing what she was about at
that moment better than I, being at the same time
more strict and more indulgent towards herself than
I was towards her, she may all the same have had a
fear that I might refuse to see her again after the
way in which she had left me. And I believe that she
was attached to me, so much so that the other
person was more jealous than I was.



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       Some days later, at Balbec, while we were in the
ballroom of the casino, there entered Bloch's sister
and cousin, who had both turned out quite pretty,
but whom I refrained from greeting on account of
my girl friends, because the younger one, the
cousin, was notoriously living with the actress
whose acquaintance she had made during my first
visit. Andrée, at a murmured allusion to this
scandal, said to me: "Oh! About that sort of thing
I'm like Albertine; there's nothing we both loathe so
much as that sort of thing." As for Albertine, on
sitting down to talk to me upon the sofa, she had
turned her back on the disreputable pair. I had
noticed, however, that, before she changed her
position, at the moment when Mlle. Bloch and her
cousin appeared, my friend's eyes had flashed with
that sudden, close attention which now and again
imparted to the face of this frivolous girl a serious,
indeed a grave air, and left her pensive afterwards.
But Albertine had at once turned towards myself a
gaze which nevertheless remained singularly fixed
and meditative. Mlle. Bloch and her cousin having


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finally left the room after laughing and shouting in a
loud and vulgar manner, I asked Albertine whether
the little fair one (the one who was so intimate with
the actress) was not the girl who had won the prize
the day before in the procession of flowers. "I don't
know," said Albertine, "is one of them fair? I must
confess they don't interest me particularly, I have
never looked at them. Is one of them fair?" she
asked her three girl friends with a detached air of
inquiry. When applied to people whom Albertine
passed every day on the front, this ignorance
seemed to me too profound to be genuine. "They
didn't appear to be looking at us much either," I
said to Albertine, perhaps (on the assumption,
which I did not however consciously form, that
Albertine loved her own sex), to free her from any
regret by pointing out to her that she had not
attracted the attention of these girls and that,
generally speaking, it is not customary even for the
most vicious of women to take an interest in girls
whom they do not know. "They weren't looking at
us!" was Albertine's astonished reply. "Why, they


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did nothing else the whole time." "But you can't
possibly tell," I said to her, "you had your back to
them." "Very well, and what about that?" she
replied, pointing out to me, set in the wall in front of
us, a large mirror which I had not noticed and upon
which I now realised that my friend, while talking to
me,        had          never            ceased             to       fix       her         troubled,
preoccupied eyes.


       Ever           since           the         day           when             Cottard              had
accompanied me into the little casino at Incarville,
albeit I did not share the opinion that he had
expressed, Albertine had seemed to me different;
the sight of her made me lose my temper. I myself
had changed, quite as much as she had changed in
my eyes. I had ceased to bear her any good will; to
her face, behind her back when there was a chance
of my words being repeated to her, I spoke of her in
the most insulting language. There were, however,
intervals of calmer feeling. One day I learned that
Albertine             and          Andrée             had          both          accepted               an
invitation to Elstir's. Feeling certain that this was in


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order that they might, on the return journey, amuse
themselves like schoolgirls on holiday by imitating
the manners of fast young women, and in so doing
find an unmaidenly pleasure the thought of which
wrung my heart, without announcing my intention,
to embarrass them and to deprive Albertine of the
pleasure on which she was reckoning, I paid an
unexpected call at his studio. But I found only
Andrée there. Albertine had chosen another day
when her aunt was to go there with her. Then I said
to myself that Cottard must have been mistaken;
the favourable impression that I received from
Andrée's presence there without her friend remained
with me and made me feel more kindly disposed
towards Albertine. But this feeling lasted no longer
than the healthy moments of delicate people subject
to passing maladies, who are prostrated again by
the merest trifle. Albertine incited Andrée to actions
which, without going very far, were perhaps not
altogether innocent; pained by this suspicion, I
managed in the end to repel it. No sooner was I
healed of it than it revived under another form. I


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had just seen Andrée, with one of those graceful
gestures that came naturally to her, lay her head
coaxingly on Albertine's shoulder, kiss her on the
throat, half shutting her eyes; or else they had
exchanged a glance; a remark had been made by
somebody who had seen them going down together
to bathe: little trifles such as habitually float in the
surrounding atmosphere where the majority of
people absorb them all day long without injury to
their health or alteration of their mood, but which
have a morbid effect and breed fresh sufferings in a
nature predisposed to receive them. Sometimes
even without my having seen Albertine again,
without anyone's having spoken to me about her,
there would flash from my memory some vision of
her with Gisèle in an attitude which had seemed to
me innocent at the time; it was enough now to
destroy the peace of mind that I had managed to
recover, I had no longer any need to go and breathe
dangerous germs outside, I had, as Cottard would
have said, supplied my own toxin. I thought then of
all that I had been told about Swann's love for


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Odette, of the way in which Swann had been tricked
all his life. Indeed, when I come to think of it, the
hypothesis that made me gradually build up the
whole of Albertine's character and give a painful
interpretation to every moment of a life that I could
not control in its entirety, was the memory, the
rooted idea of Mme.                            Swann's character, as it had
been described to me. These accounts helped my
imagination, in after years, to take the line of
supposing that Albertine might, instead of being a
good girl, have had the same immorality, the same
faculty of deception as a reformed prostitute, and I
thought of all the sufferings that would in that case
have been in store for me had I ever really been her
lover.


       One day, outside the Grand Hotel, where we
were gathered on the front, I had just been
addressing                 Albertine               in        the          harshest,                most
humiliating language, and Rosemonde was saying:
"Oh, how you have changed your mind about her;
why, she used to be everything, it was she who


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ruled the roost, and now she isn't even fit to be
thrown to the dogs." I was beginning, in order to
make my attitude towards Albertine still more
marked, to say all the nicest things I could think of
to Andrée, who, if she was tainted with the same
vice, seemed to me to have more excuse for it since
she was sickly and neurasthenic, when we saw
emerging at the steady trot of its pair of horses into
the street at right angles to the front, at the corner
of which we were standing, Mme. de Cambremer's
barouche.               The         chief          magistrate                 who,          at       that
moment, was advancing towards us, sprang back
upon recognising the carriage, in order not to be
seen in our company; then, when he thought that
the Marquise's eye might catch his, bowed to her
with an immense sweep of his hat. But the carriage,
instead of continuing, as might have been expected,
along the Rue de la Mer, disappeared through the
gate of the hotel. It was quite ten minutes later
when the lift-boy, out of breath, came to announce
to me: "It's the Marquise de Camembert, she's
come here to see Monsieur. I've been up to the


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room, I looked in the reading-room, I couldn't find
Monsieur anywhere. Luckily I thought of looking on
the beach." He had barely ended this speech when,
followed             by        her         daughter-in-law                       and          by        an
extremely ceremonious gentleman, the Marquise
advanced towards me, coming on probably from
some afternoon tea-party in the neighbourhood, and
bowed down not so much by age as by the mass of
costly trinkets with which she felt it more sociable
and more befitting her rank to cover herself, in
order to appear as 'well dressed' as possible to the
people whom she went to visit. It was in fact that
'landing' of the Cambremers at the hotel which my
grandmother had so greatly dreaded long ago when
she wanted us not to let Legrandin know that we
might perhaps be going to Balbec. Then Mamma
used to laugh at these fears inspired by an event
which she considered impossible. And here it was
actually happening, but by different channels and
without Legrandin's having had any part in it. "Do
you mind my staying here, if I shan't be in your
way?"           asked           Albertine               (in       whose             eyes          there


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lingered, brought there by the cruel things I had
just been saying to her, a pair of tears which I
observed without seeming to see them, but not
without rejoicing inwardly at the sight), "there is
something I want to say to you." A hat with
feathers, itself surmounted by a sapphire pin, was
perched haphazard upon Mme. de Cambremer's wig,
like a badge the display of which was necessary but
sufficient,             its        place           immaterial,                   its       elegance
conventional                    and            its          stability               superfluous.
Notwithstanding the heat, the good lady had put on
a jet cloak, like a dalmatic, over which hung an
ermine stole the wearing of which seemed to
depend not upon the temperature and season, but
upon the nature of the ceremony. And on Mme. de
Cambremer's bosom a baronial torse, fastened to a
chain, dangled like a pectoral cross. The gentleman
was an eminent lawyer from Paris, of noble family,
who had come down to spend a few days with the
Cambremers. He was one of those men whom their
vast professional experience inclines to look down
upon their profession, and who say, for instance: "I


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know that I am a good pleader, so it no longer
amuses me to plead," or: "I'm no longer interested
in operating, I know that I'm a good operator." Men
of intelligence, artists, they see themselves in their
maturity, richly endowed by success, shining with
that       intellect,             that         artistic          nature            which            their
professional brethren recognise in them and which
confer upon them a kind of taste and discernment.
They form a passion for the paintings not of a great
artist, but of an artist who nevertheless is highly
distinguished, and spend upon the purchase of his
work the large sums that their career procures for
them. Le Sidaner was the artist chosen by the
Cambremers'                     friend,            who           incidentally                 was          a
delightful person. He talked well about books, but
not about the books of the true masters, those who
have mastered themselves. The only irritating habit
that this amateur displayed was his constant use of
certain ready made expressions, such as 'for the
most part,' which gave an air of importance and
incompleteness to the matter of which he was
speaking. Madame de Cambremer had taken the


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opportunity, she told me, of a party which some
friends of hers had been giving that afternoon in the
Balbec direction to come and call upon me, as she
had promised Robert de Saint-Loup. "You know he's
coming down to these parts quite soon for a few
days: His uncle Charlus is staying near here with his
sister-in-law, the Duchesse de Luxembourg, and M.
de Saint-Loup means to take the opportunity of
paying his aunt a visit and going to see his old
regiment,               where             he        is      very          popular,               highly
respected. We often have visits from officers who
are never tired of singing his praises.                                              How nice it
would be if you and he would give us the pleasure of
coming together to Féterne." I presented Albertine
and her friends. Mme. de Cambremer introduced us
all to her daughter-in-law. The latter, so frigid
towards the petty nobility with whom her seclusion
at Féterne forced her to associate, so reserved, so
afraid of compromising herself, held out her hand to
me with a radiant smile, safe as she felt herself and
delighted at seeing a friend of Robert de Saint-Loup,
whom he, possessing a sharper social intuition than


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he allowed to appear, had mentioned to her as
being a great friend of the Guermantes. So, unlike
her mother-in-law, Mme. de Cambremer employed
two vastly different forms of politeness. It was at
the most the former kind, dry, insupportable, that
she would have conceded me had I met her through
her brother Legrandin. But for a friend of the
Guermantes she had not smiles enough. The most
convenient room in the hotel for entertaining visitors
was the reading-room, that place once so terrible
into which I now went a dozen times every day,
emerging freely, my own master, like those mildly
afflicted lunatics who have so long been inmates of
an asylum that the superintendent trusts them with
a latchkey. And so I offered to take Mme. de
Cambremer there. And as this room no longer filled
me with shyness and no longer held any charm for
me, since the faces of things change for us like the
faces of people, it was without the slightest emotion
that I made this suggestion. But she declined it,
preferring to remain out of doors, and we sat down
in the open air, on the terrace of the hotel. I found


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there and rescued a volume of Madame de Sévigné
which Mamma had not had time to carry off in her
precipitate flight, when she heard that visitors had
called for me. No less than my grandmother, she
dreaded these invasions of strangers, and, in her
fear of being too late to escape if she let herself be
seen, would fly from the room with a rapidity which
always made my father and me laugh at her.
Madame de Cambremer carried in her hand, with
the handle of a sunshade, a number of embroidered
bags, a hold-all, a gold purse from which there
dangled strings of garnets, and a lace handkerchief.
I could not help thinking that it would be more
convenient for her to deposit them on a chair; but I
felt that it would be unbecoming and useless to ask
her to lay aside the ornaments of her pastoral
visitation and her social priesthood.                                             We gazed at
the calm sea upon which, here and there, a few
gulls floated like white petals. Because of the 'mean
level' to which social conversation reduces us and
also of our desire to attract not by means of those
qualities of which we are ourselves unaware but of


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those which, we suppose, ought to be appreciated
by the people who are with us, I began instinctively
to talk to Mme. de Cambremer née Legrandin in the
strain in which her brother might have talked. "They
appear," I said, referring to the gulls, "as motionless
and as white as water-lilies." And indeed they did
appear to be offering a lifeless object to the little
waves which tossed them about, so much so that
the waves, by contrast, seemed in their pursuit of
them to be animated by a deliberate intention, to
have acquired life. The dowager Marquise could not
find words enough to do justice to the superb view
of the sea that we had from Balbec, or to say how
she envied it, she who from la Raspelière (where for
that matter she was not living that year) had only
such a distant glimpse of the waves. She had two
remarkable habits, due at once to her exalted
passion for the arts (especially for the art of music),
and to her want of teeth. Whenever she talked of
aesthetic subjects her salivary glands--like those of
certain animals when in rut--became so overcharged
that the old lady's edentulous mouth allowed to


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escape from the corners of her faintly moustached
lips a trickle of moisture for which that was not the
proper place. Immediately she drew it in again with
a deep sigh, like a person recovering his breath.
Secondly, if her subject were some piece of music of
surpassing beauty, in her enthusiasm she would
raise her arms and utter a few decisive opinions,
vigorously chewed and at a pinch issuing from her
nose. Now it had never occurred to me that the
vulgar          beach            at      Balbec            could           indeed            offer         a
'seascape,' and Mme. de Cambremer's simple words
changed my ideas in that respect. On the other
hand, as I told her, I had always heard people
praise the matchless view from la Raspelière,
perched on the summit of the hill, where, in a great
drawing-room with two fireplaces, one whole row of
windows swept the gardens, and, through the
branches of the trees, the sea as far as Balbec and
beyond it, and the other row the valley. "How nice
of you to say so, and how well you put it: the sea
through the branches. It is exquisite, one would say
... a painted fan." And I gathered from a deep


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breath intended to catch the falling spittle and dry
the moustaches, that the compliment was sincere.
But the Marquise née Legrandin remained cold, to
shew her contempt not for my words but for those
of her mother-in-law. Besides, she not only despised
the other's intellect but deplored her affability, being
always           afraid           that        people             might           not         form          a
sufficiently high idea of the Cambremers. "And how
charming the name is," said I. "One would like to
know the origin of all those names." "That one I can
tell you," the old lady answered modestly. "It is a
family          place,           it      came           from           my         grandmother
Arrachepel, not an illustrious family, but a decent
and very old country stock." "What! Not illustrious!"
her daughter-in-law tartly interrupted her. "A whole
window in Bayeux cathedral is filled with their arms,
and the principal church at Avranches has their
tombs. If these old names interest you," she added,
"you've come a year too late. We managed to
appoint to the living of Criquetot, in spite of all the
difficulties about changing from one diocese to
another, the parish priest of a place where I myself


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have some land, a long way from here, Combray,
where the worthy cleric felt that he was becoming
neurasthenic. Unfortunately, the sea air was no
good to him at his age; his neurasthenia grew worse
and he has returned to Combray. But he amused
himself while he was our neighbour in going about
looking up all the old charters, and he compiled
quite an interesting little pamphlet on the place
names of the district. It has given him a fresh
interest, too, for it seems he is spending his last
years in writing a great work upon Combray and its
surroundings. I shall send you his pamphlet on the
surroundings                   of       Féterne.              It      is       worthy             of       a
Benedictine. You will find the most interesting things
in it about our old Raspelière, of which my mother-
in-law speaks far too modestly." "In any case, this
year," replied the dowager Mme. de Cambremer, "la
Raspelière is no longer ours and does not belong to
me. But I can see that you have a painter's
instincts; I am sure you sketch, and I should so like
to shew you Féterne, which is far finer than la
Raspelière." For as soon as the Cambremers had let


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this        latter           residence                 to        the         Verdurins,                  its
commanding situation had at once ceased to appear
to them as it had appeared for so many years past,
that is to say to offer the advantage, without
parallel in the neighbourhood, of looking out over
both sea and valley, and had on the other hand,
suddenly               and           retrospectively,                       presented                  the
drawback that one had always to go up or down hill
to get to or from it. In short, one might have
supposed that if Mme. de Cambremer had let it, it
was not so much to add to her income as to spare
her horses. And she proclaimed herself delighted at
being able at last to have the sea always so close at
hand, at Féterne, she who for so many years
(forgetting the two months that she spent there)
had seen it only from up above and as though in a
panorama. "I am discovering it at my age," she
said, "and how I enjoy it! It does me a world of
good. I would let la Raspelière for nothing so as to
be obliged to live at Féterne."


       "To return to more interesting topics," went on


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Legrandin's sister, who addressed the old Marquise
as 'Mother,' but with the passage of years had come
to treat her with insolence, "you mentioned water-
lilies: I suppose you know Claude Monet's pictures
of      them.           What            a      genius!             They           interest             me
particularly              because               near         Combray,                 that         place
where I told you I had some land...." But she
preferred not to talk too much about Combray.
"Why! That must be the series that Elstir told us
about, the greatest painter of this generation,"
exclaimed Albertine, who had said nothing so far.
"Ah! I can see that this young lady loves the arts,"
cried Mme. de Cambremer and, drawing a long
breath, recaptured a trail of spittle. "You will allow
me to put Le Sidaner before him, Mademoiselle,"
said the lawyer, smiling with the air of an expert.
And, as he had enjoyed, or seen people enjoy, years
ago, certain 'daring' work by Elstir, he added: "Elstir
was gifted, indeed he was one of the advance
guard, but for some reason or other he never kept
up, he has wasted his life." Mme. de Cambremer
disagreed with the lawyer, so far as Elstir was


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concerned, but, greatly to the annoyance of her
guest, bracketed Monet with Le Sidaner. It would be
untrue to say that she was a fool; she was
overflowing with a kind of intelligence that meant
nothing to me. As the sun was beginning to set, the
seagulls were now yellow, like the water-lilies on
another canvas of that series by Monet. I said that I
knew it, and (continuing to copy the diction of her
brother, whom I had not yet dared to name) added
that it was a pity that she had not thought of
coming a day earlier, for, at the same hour, there
would have been a Poussin light for her to admire.
Had        some           Norman               squireen,               unknown                to       the
Guermantes, told her that she ought to have come a
day earlier, Mme. de Cambremer-Legrandin would
doubtless have drawn herself up with an offended
air. But I might have been far more familiar still,
and she would have been all smiles and sweetness;
I might in the warmth of that fine afternoon devour
my fill of that rich honey cake which Mme. de
Cambremer so rarely was and which took the place
of the dish of pastry that it had not occurred to me


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to offer my guests. But the name of Poussin,
without altering the amenity of the society lady,
called forth the protests of the connoisseur. On
hearing that name, she produced six times in almost
continuous succession that little smack of the
tongue against the lips which serves to convey to a
child who is misbehaving at once a reproach for
having begun and a warning not to continue. "In
heaven's name, after a painter like Monet, who is an
absolute genius, don't go and mention an old hack
without a vestige of talent, like Poussin. I don't mind
telling you frankly that I find him the deadliest bore.
I mean to say, you can't really call that sort of thing
painting. Monet, Degas, Manet, yes, there are
painters if you like! It is a curious thing," she went
on, fixing a scrutinous and ecstatic gaze upon a
vague point in space where she could see what was
in her mind, "it is a curious thing, I used at one time
to prefer Manet. Nowadays, I still admire Manet, of
course, but I believe I like Monet even more.                                                         Oh!
The Cathedrals!" She was as scrupulous as she was
condescending in informing me of the evolution of


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her taste. And one felt that the phases through
which that taste had evolved were not, in her eyes,
any less important than the different manners of
Monet himself. Not that I had any reason to feel
flattered by her taking me into her confidence as to
her preferences, for even in the presence of the
narrowest of provincial ladies she could not remain
for five minutes without feeling the need to confess
them. When a noble dame of Avranches, who would
have been incapable of distinguishing between
Mozart and Wagner, said in Mme. de Cambremer's
hearing: "We saw nothing of any interest while we
were in Paris, we went once to the Opéra-Comique,
they were doing Pelléas et Mélisande, it's dreadful
stuff," Mme. de Cambremer not only boiled with
rage but felt obliged to exclaim: "Not at all, it's a
little gem," and to 'argue the point.' It was perhaps
a Combray habit which she had picked up from my
grandmother's sisters, who called it 'fighting in the
good cause,' and loved the dinner-parties at which
they knew all through the week that they would
have to defend their idols against the Philistines.


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Similarly, Mme. de Cambremer liked to 'fly into a
passion' and wrangle about art, as other people do
about politics. She stood up for Debussy as she
would have stood up for a woman friend whose
conduct had been criticised. She must however have
known very well that when she said: "Not at all, it's
a little gem," she could not improvise in the other
lady, whom she was putting in her place, the whole
progressive development of artistic culture on the
completion of which they would come naturally to
an agreement without any need of discussion. "I
must ask Le Sidaner what he thinks of Poussin," the
lawyer remarked to me. "He's a regular recluse,
never opens his mouth, but I know how to get
things out of him."


       "Anyhow," Mme. de Cambremer went on, "I
have a horror of sunsets, they're so romantic, so
operatic. That is why I can't abide my mother-in-
law's house, with its tropical plants. You will see it,
it's just like a public garden at Monte-Carlo. That's
why I prefer your coast, here. It is more sombre,


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more sincere; there's a little lane from which one
doesn't see the sea. On rainy days, there's nothing
but mud, it's a little world apart. It's just the same
at Venice, I detest the Grand Canal and I don't know
anything so touching as the little alleys. But it's all a
question of one's surroundings." "But," I remarked
to her, feeling that the only way to rehabilitate
Poussin in Mme. de Cambremer's eyes was to
inform her that he was once more in fashion, "M.
Degas assures us that he knows nothing more
beautiful than the Poussins at Chantilly." "Indeed? I
don't know the ones at Chantilly," said Mme. de
Cambremer who had no wish to differ from Degas,
"but I can speak about the ones in the Louvre,
which are appalling." "He admires them immensely
too." "I must look at them again. My impressions of
them are rather distant," she replied after a
moment's silence, and as though the favourable
opinion which she was certain, before very long, to
form of Poussin would depend, not upon the
information that I had just communicated to her,
but upon the supplementary and, this time, final


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examination that she intended to make of the
Poussins in the Louvre in order to be in a position to
change her mind. Contenting myself with what was
a first step towards retraction since, if she did not
yet admire the Poussins, she was adjourning the
matter for further consideration, in order not to
keep her on tenterhooks any longer, I told her
mother-in-law how much I had heard of the
wonderful flowers at Féterne. In modest terms she
spoke of the little presbytery garden that she had
behind the house, into which in the mornings, by
simply pushing open a door, she went in her
wrapper to feed her peacocks, hunt for new-laid
eggs, and gather the zinnias or roses which, on the
sideboard, framing the creamed eggs or fried fish in
a border of flowers, reminded her of her garden
paths. "It is true, we have a great many roses," she
told me, "our rose garden is almost too near the
house, there are days when it makes my head ache.
It is nicer on the terrace at la Raspelière where the
breeze carries the scent of the roses, but it is not so
heady." I turned to her daughter-in-law. "It is just


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like Pelléas," I said to her, to gratify her taste for
the modern, "that scent of roses wafted up to the
terraces. It is so strong in the score that, as I suffer
from hay-fever and rose-fever, it sets me sneezing
every time I listen to that scene."


       "What a marvellous thing Pelléas is," cried Mme.
de Cambremer, "I'm mad about it;" and, drawing
closer to me with the gestures of a savage woman
seeking to captivate me, using her fingers to pick
out imaginary notes, she began to hum something
which, I supposed, represented to her the farewells
of      Pelléas,             and         continued                 with          a       vehement
persistence as though it had been important that
Mme. de Cambremer should at that moment remind
me of that scene or rather should prove to me that
she herself remembered it. "I think it is even finer
than Parsifal," she added, "because in Parsifal the
most beautiful things are surrounded with a sort of
halo of melodious phrases, which are bad simply
because they are melodious." "I know, you are a
great musician, Madame," I said to the dowager. "I


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should so much like to hear you play." Mme. de
Cambremer-Legrandin gazed at the sea so as not to
be drawn into the conversation. Being of the opinion
that what her mother-in-law liked was not music at
all, she regarded the talent, a sham talent according
to her, though in reality of the very highest order
that the other was admitted to possess as a
technical accomplishment devoid of interest. It was
true that Chopin's only surviving pupil declared, and
with justice, that the Master's style of playing, his
'feeling' had been transmitted, through herself, to
Mme. de Cambremer alone, but to play like Chopin
was far from being a recommendation in the eyes of
Legran-din's sister, who despised nobody so much
as the Polish composer. "Oh! They are flying away,"
exclaimed Albertine, pointing to the gulls which,
casting aside for a moment their flowery incognito,
were rising in a body towards the sun. "Their giant
wings from walking hinder them," quoted Mme. de
Cambremer,                    confusing                 the         seagull             with           the
albatross. "I do love them; I used to see them at
Amsterdam," said Albertine. "They smell of the sea,


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they come and breathe the salt air through the
paving stones even." "Oh! So you have been in
Holland,            you         know            the        Vermeers?"                   Mme.            de
Cambremer asked imperiously, in the tone in which
she would have said: "You know the Guermantes?"
for snobbishness in changing its subject does not
change its accent. Albertine replied in the negative,
thinking that they were living people. But her
mistake was not apparent. "I should be delighted to
play to you," Mme. de Cambremer said to me. "But
you know I only play things that no longer appeal to
your generation. I was brought up in the worship of
Chopin," she said in a lowered tone, for she was
afraid of her daughter-in-law, and knew that to the
latter,         who           considered                 that         Chopin              was          not
music,playing him well or badly were meaningless
terms. She admitted that her mother-in-law had
technique, was a finished pianist. "Nothing will ever
make me say that she is a musician," was Mme. de
Cambremer-Legrandin's                                conclusion.                 Because              she
considered herself 'advanced,' because (hi matters
of art only) "one could never move far enough to


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the Left," she said, she maintained not merely that
music progressed, but that it progressed along one
straight line, and that Debussy was in a sense a
super-Wagner, slightly more advanced again than
Wagner. She did not take into account the fact that
if Debussy was not as independent of Wagner as she
herself was to suppose in a few years' time, because
we must always make use of the weapons that we
have captured to free ourselves finally from the foe
whom we have for the moment overpowered, he
was seeking nevertheless, after the feeling of satiety
that people were beginning to derive from work that
was        too         complete,                 in      which            everything                 was
expressed, to satisfy an opposite demand. There
were theories of course, to support this reaction for
the time being, like those theories which, in politics,
come to the support of the laws against religious
communities,                   of       wars          in       the        East          (unnatural
teaching, the Yellow Peril, etc., etc.). People said
that an age of speed required rapidity in art,
precisely as they might have said that the next war
could not last longer than a fortnight, or that the


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coming of railways would kill the little places
beloved of the coaches, which the motor-car, for all
that, was to restore to favour. Composers were
warned not to strain the attention of their audience,
as though we had not at our disposal different
degrees of attention, among which it rests precisely
with the artist himself to arouse the highest. For the
people who yawn with boredom after ten lines of a
mediocre article have journeyed year after year to
Bayreuth to listen to the Ring. Besides, the day was
to come when, for a season, Debussy would be
pronounced as trivial as Massenet, and the trills of
Mélisande degraded to the level of Manon's. For
theories and schools, like microbes and corpuscles,
devour one another and by their warfare ensure the
continuity of existence. But that time was still to
come.


       As on the Stock Exchange, when a rise occurs, a
whole group of securities benefit by it, so a certain
number of despised composers were gaining by the
reaction, either because they did not deserve such


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scorn, or simply--which enabled one to be original
when one sang their praises--because they had
incurred it. And people even went the length of
seeking out, in an isolated past, men of independent
talent upon whose reputation the present movement
did not seem calculated to have any influence, but
of whom one of the new masters was understood to
have spoken favourably.                                  Often it was because a
master, whoever he may be, however exclusive his
school, judges in the light of his own untutored
instincts, does justice to talent wherever it be found,
or rather not so much to talent as to some
agreeable inspiration which he has enjoyed in the
past, which reminds him of a precious moment in
his adolescence. Or, it may be, because certain
artists of an earlier generation have in some
fragment of their work realised something that
resembles what the master has gradually become
aware that he himself meant at one time to create.
Then he sees the old master as a sort of precursor;
he values in him, under a wholly different form, an
effort that is momentarily, partially fraternal. There


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are bits of Turner in the work of Poussin, we find a
phrase of Flaubert in Montesquieu. Sometimes,
again, this rumoured predilection of the Master was
due to an error, starting heaven knows where and
circulated through the school. But in that case the
name mentioned profited by the auspices under
which it was introduced in the nick of time, for if
there is an element of free will, some genuine taste
expressed in the master's choice, the schools
themselves go only by theory. Thus it is that the
mind, following its habitual course which advances
by digression, inclining first in one direction, then in
the other, had brought back into the light of day a
number of works to which the need for justice, or
for a renewal of standards, or the taste of Debussy,
or his caprice, or some remark that he had perhaps
never made had added the works of Chopin.
Commended by the judges in whom one had entire
confidence, profiting by the admiration that was
aroused by Pelléas, they had acquired a fresh lustre,
and even the people who had not heard them again
were so anxious to admire them that they did so in


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spite of themselves, albeit preserving the illusion of
free will. But Mme. de Cambremer-Legrandin spent
part of the year in the country. Even in Paris, being
an invalid, she was largely confined to her own
room. It is true that the drawbacks of this mode of
existence were noticeable chiefly in her choice of
expressions which she supposed to be fashionable
and which would have been more appropriate to the
written language, a distinction that she did not
perceive, for she derived them more from reading
than        from          conversation.                    The         latter         is      not        so
necessary for an exact knowledge of current opinion
as of the latest expressions. Unfortunately this
revival          of       the         Nocturnes                 had         not         yet        been
announced by the critics. The news of it had been
transmitted only by word of mouth among the
'younger' people. It remained unknown to Mme. de
Cambremer-Legrandin. I gave myself the pleasure
of informing her, but by addressing my remark to
her mother-in-law, as when at billiards in order to
hit a ball one aims at the cushion, that Chopin, so
far from being out of date, was Debussy's favourite


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composer.                 "Indeed,               that's            quaint,"              said          the
daughter-in-law with a subtle smile as though it had
been merely a deliberate paradox on the part of the
composer of Pelléas. Nevertheless it was now quite
certain that in future she would always listen to
Chopin with respect and even pleasure.                                                    Moreover
my        words            which            had          sounded               the         hour           of
deliverance for the dowager produced on her face
an expression of gratitude to myself and above all of
joy. Her eyes shone like the eyes of Latude in the
play        entitled             Latude,             or        Thirty-five               Years            in
Captivity, and her bosom inhaled the sea air with
that        dilatation              which            Beethoven                  has         so       well
described in Fidelio, at the point where his prisoners
at last breathe again 'this life-giving air.' As for the
dowager, I thought that she was going to press her
hirsute lips to my cheek. "What, you like Chopin? He
likes Chopin, he likes Chopin," she cried with a nasal
trumpet-tone of passion; she might have been
saying: "What, you know Mme. de Franquetot too?"
with this difference, that my relations with Mme. de
Franquetot                 would             have            left         her          completely


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indifferent,              whereas               my         knowledge                  of       Chopin
plunged her in a sort of artistic delirium. Her
salivary super-secretion no longer sufficed. Not
having attempted even to understand the part
played by Debussy in the rediscovery of Chopin, she
felt only that my judgment of him was favourable.
Her musical enthusiasm overpowered her. "Elodie!
Elodie! He likes Chopin!" her bosom rose and she
beat the air with her arms. "Ah! I knew at once that
you were a musician," she cried. "I can quite
understand an artist such as you are liking him. He's
so lovely!" And her voice was as pebbly as if, to
express her ardour for Chopin, she had copied
Demosthenes and filled her mouth with all the
shingle on the beach. Then came the turn of the
tide, reaching as far as her veil which she had not
time to lift out of harm's way and which was
flooded; and lastly the Marquise wiped away with
her embroidered handkerchief the tidemark of foam
in which the memory of Chopin had steeped her
moustaches.



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       "Good              heavens,"                  Mme.              de          Cambremer-
Legrandin remarked to me, "I'm afraid my mother-
in-law's cutting it rather fine, she's forgotten that
we've got my Uncle de Ch'nouville dining. Besides,
Cancan doesn't like to be kept waiting." The word
'Cancan' was beyond me, and I supposed that she
might perhaps be referring to a dog. But as for the
Ch'nouville relatives, the explanation was as follows.
With the lapse of time the young Marquise had
outgrown the pleasure that she had once found in
pronouncing their name in this manner. And yet it
was the prospect of enjoying that pleasure that had
decided her choice of a husband. In other social
circles, when one referred to the Chenouville family,
the custom was (whenever, that is to say, the
particle was preceded by a word ending in a vowel
sound, for otherwise you were obliged to lay stress
upon the de, the tongue refusing to utter Madam'
d'Ch'nonceaux) that it was the mute e of the particle
that          was           sacrificed.                 One             said:            "Monsieur
d'Chenouville."                    The          Cambremer                     tradition              was
different, but no less imperious. It was the mute e


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of Chenouville that was suppressed. Whether the
name was preceded by mon cousin or by ma
cousine, it was always de Ch'nouville and never de
Chenouville. (Of the father of these Chenouvilles,
one said 'our Uncle' for they were not sufficiently
'smart set' at Féterne to pronounce the word 'Unk'
like      the        Guermantes,                    whose            deliberate                jargon,
suppressing consonants and naturalising foreign
words, was as difficult to understand as Old French
or a modern dialect.) Every newcomer into the
family circle at once received, in the matter of the
Ch'nouvilles, a lesson which Mme. de Cambremer-
Legrandin had not required. When, paying a call one
day, she had heard a girl say: "My Aunt d'Uzai," "My
Unk de Rouan," she had not at first recognised the
illustrious names which she was in the habit of
pronouncing: Uzès, and Rolîan, she had felt the
astonishment, embarrassment and shame of a
person who sees before him on the table a recently
invented implement of which he does not know the
proper use and with which he dares not begin to
eat. But during that night and the next day she had


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rapturously repeated: "My Aunt Uzai," with that
suppression of the final s, a suppression that had
stupefied her the day before, but which it now
seemed to her so vulgar not to know that, one of
her friends having spoken to her of a bust of the
Duchesse d'Uzès, Mlle. Legrandin had answered her
crossly, and in an arrogant tone: "You might at least
pronounce her name properly: Mme. d'Uzai." From
that moment she had realised that, by virtue of the
transmutation of solid bodies into more and more
subtle elements, the considerable and so honourably
acquired fortune that she had inherited from her
father, the finished education that she had received,
her regular attendance at the Sorbonne, whether at
Caro's lectures or at Brunetiere's, and at the
Lamoureux concerts, all this was to be rendered
volatile, to find its utmost sublimation in the
pleasure of being able one day to say: "My Aunt
d'Uzai." This did not exclude the thought that she
would continue to associate, in the earlier days, at
least, of her married life, not indeed with certain
women friends whom she liked and had resigned


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herself to sacrificing, but with certain others whom
she did not like and to whom she looked forward to
being able to say (since that, after all, was why she
was marrying): "I must introduce you to my Aunt
d'Uzai," and, when she saw that such an alliance
was beyond her reach, "I must introduce you to my
Aunt de Ch'nouville," and "I shall ask you to dine to
meet the Uzai." Her marriage to M. de Cambremer
had procured for Mlle. Legrandin the opportunity to
use the former of these phrases but not the latter,
the circle in which her parents-in-law moved not
being that which she had supposed and of which she
continued to dream. After saying to me of Saint-
Loup         (adopting                for       the         occasion              one          of       his
expressions, for if in talking to her I used those
expressions                 of       Legrandin,                 she         by        a       reverse
suggestion answered me in Robert's dialect which
she did not know to be borrowed from Rachel),
bringing her thumb and forefinger together and half-
shutting her eyes as though she were gazing at
something                 infinitely             delicate              which             she          had
succeeded in capturing: "He has a charming quality


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of mind," she began to extol him with such warmth
that one might have supposed that she was in love
with him (it had indeed been alleged that, some
time back, when he was at Don-cières, Robert had
been her lover), in reality simply that I might repeat
her words to him, and ended up with: "You are a
great friend of the Duchesse de Guermantes. I am
an invalid, I never go anywhere, and I know that
she sticks to a close circle of chosen friends, which I
do think so wise of her, and so I know her very
slightly, but I know she is a really remarkable
woman." Aware that Mme. de Carnbremer barely
knew her, and anxious to reduce myself to her level,
I avoided the subject and answered the Marquise
that the person whom I did know well was her
brother, M.                 Legrandin. At the sound of his name
she assumed the same evasive air as myself over
the name of Mme. de Guermantes, but combined
with        it     an       expression                 of       annoyance,                  for       she
supposed that I had said this with the object of
humiliating not myself but her. Was she gnawed by
despair at having been born a Legrandin? So at


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least        her         husband's                sisters            and         sisters-in-law
asserted, ladies of the provincial nobility who knew
nobody and nothing, and were jealous of Mme. de
Cambremer's                     intelligence,                  her         education,                  her
fortune, the                  physical             attractions                that        she         had
possessed before her illness. "She can think of
nothing else, that is what is killing her," these
slanderers would say whenever they spoke of Mme.
de Cambremer to no matter whom, but preferably
to a plebeian, whether, were he conceited and
stupid, to enhance, by this affirmation of the
shamefulness of a plebeian origin, the value of the
affability that they were shewing him, of, if he were
shy and clever and applied the remark to himself, to
give themselves the pleasure, while receiving him
hospitably, of insulting him indirectly. But if these
ladies thought that they were speaking the truth
about their sister-in-law, they were mistaken. She
suffered not at all from having been born Legrandin,
for she had forgotten the fact altogether. She was
annoyed at my reminding her of it, and remained
silent as though she had not understood, not


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thinking it necessary to enlarge upon or even to
confirm my statement.


       "Our cousins are not the chief reason for our
cutting short our visit," said the dowager Mme. de
Cambremer, who was probably more satiated than
her daughter-in-law with the pleasure to be derived
from saying 'Ch'nouville.' "But, so as not to bother
you with too many people, Monsieur," she went on,
indicating the lawyer, "was afraid to bring his wife
and son to the hotel. They are waiting for us on the
beach, and they will be growing impatient." I asked
for an exact description of them and hastened in
search of them. The wife had a round face like
certain flowers of the ranunculus family, and a large
vegetable growth at the corner of her eye. And as
the        generations                    of        mankind                 preserve                their
characteristic like a family of plants, just as on the
blemished face of his mother, an identical mole,
which might have helped one in classifying a variety
of the species, protruded below the eye of the son.
The lawyer was touched by my civility to his wife


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and son. He shewed an interest in the subject of my
stay at Balbec. "You must find yourself rather out of
your element, for the people here are for the most
part foreigners." And he kept his eye on me as he
spoke, for, not caring for foreigners, albeit he had
many foreign clients, he wished to make sure that I
was not hostile to his xenophobia, in which case he
would have beaten a retreat saying: "Of course,
Mme.            X-----may be a charming woman. It's a
question of principle." As at that time I had no
definite opinion about foreigners, I shewed no sign
of disapproval; he felt himself to be on safe ground.
He went so far as to invite me to come one day, in
Paris, to see his collection of Le Sidaner, and to
bring with me the Cambremers, with whom he
evidently supposed me to be on intimate terms. "I
shall invite you to meet Le Sidaner," he said to me,
confident that from that moment I would live only in
expectation of that happy day. "You shall see what a
delightful man he is. And his pictures will enchant
you. Of course, I can't compete with the great
collectors, but I do believe that I am the one that


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possesses the greatest number of his favourite
canvases. They will interest you all the more,
coming from Balbec, since they are marine subjects,
for the most part, at least." The wife and son,
blessed             with            a        vegetable                  nature,              listened
composedly. One felt that their house in Paris was a
sort of temple of Le Sidaner. Temples of this sort
are not without their use. When the god has doubts
as to his own merits, he can easily stop the cracks
in     his       opinion            of      himself             with         the        irrefutable
testimony of people who have devoted their lives to
his work.


       At a signal from her daughter-in-law, Mme. de
Cambremer prepared to depart, and said to me:
"Since you won't come and stay at Féterne, won't
you at least come to luncheon, one day this week,
to-morrow for instance?" And in her bounty, to
make the invitation irresistible, she added: "You will
find the Comte de Crisenoy," whom I had never lost,
for the simple reason that I did not know him. She
was beginning to dazzle me with yet further


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temptations,                   but          stopped                short.             The           chief
magistrate who, on returning to the hotel, had been
told that she was on the premises had crept about
searching for her everywhere, then waited his
opportunity, and pretending to have caught sight of
her by chance, came up now to greet her. I
gathered that Mme. de Cambremer did not mean to
extend to him the invitation to luncheon that she
had just addressed to me. And yet he had known
her far longer than I, having for years past been one
of the regular guests at the afternoon parties at
Féterne whom I used so to envy during my former
visit to Balbec. But old acquaintance is not the only
thing that counts in society. And hostesses are more
inclined           to        reserve             their          luncheons                 for        new
acquaintances                    who           still        whet           their          curiosity,
especially when they arrive preceded by a glowing
and irresistible recommendation like Saint-Loup's of
me. Mme. de Cambremer decided that the chief
magistrate could not have heard what she was
saying to me, but, to calm her guilty conscience,
began addressing him in the kindest tone. In the


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sunlight that flooded, on the horizon, the golden
coastline, invisible as a rule, of Rivebelle, we could
just make out, barely distinguishable from the
luminous azure, rising from the water, rosy, silvery,
faint, the little bells that were sounding the angélus
round about Féterne. "That is rather Pelléas, too," I
suggested to Mme. de Cambremer-Legrandin. "You
know the scene I mean." "Of course I do!" was what
she said; but "I haven't the faintest idea" was the
message proclaimed by her voice and features
which did not mould themselves to the shape of any
recollection and by a smile that floated without
support in the air. The dowager could not get over
her astonishment that the sound of the bells should
carry so far, and rose, reminded of the time. "But,
as a rule," I said, "we never see that part of the
coast from Balbec, nor hear it either. The weather
must have changed and enlarged the horizon in
more ways than one. Unless, that is to say, the bells
have come to look for you, since I see that they are
making you leave; to you they are a dinner bell."
The chief magistrate, little interested in the bells,


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glanced furtively along the front, on which he was
sorry to see so few people that evening. "You are a
true poet," said Mme. de Cambremer to me. "One
feels you are so responsive, so artistic, come, I will
play you Chopin," she went on, raising her arms
with an air of ecstasy and pronouncing the words in
a raucous voice like the shifting of shingle on the
beach. Then came the deglutition of spittle, and the
old lady instinctively wiped the stubble of her
moustaches with her handkerchief.                                                       The chief
magistrate did me, unconsciously, a great service by
offering the Marquise his arm to escort her to her
carriage, a certain blend of vulgarity, boldness and
love of ostentation prompting him to actions which
other people would have hesitated to risk, and
which are by no means unsuccessful in society. He
was, moreover, and had been for years past far
more in the habit of these actions than myself.
While blessing him for what he did I did not venture
to copy him, and walked by the side of Mme. de
Cambremer-Legrandin who insisted upon seeing the
book that I had in my hand. The name of Madame


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de Sévigné drew a grimace from her; and using a
word which she had seen in certain newspapers, but
which, used in speech and given a feminine form,
and applied to a seventeenth century writer, had an
odd effect, she asked me: "Do you think her really
masterly?" The Marquise gave her footman the
address of a pastry-cook where she had to call
before taking the road, rosy with the evening haze,
through which loomed one beyond another the
dusky walls of cliff. She asked her old coachman
whether one of the horses which was apt to catch
cold had been kept warm enough, whether the
other's shoe were not hurting him. "I shall write to
you        and         make             a      definite             engagement,"                      she
murmured to me. "I heard you talking about
literature to my daughter-in-law, she's a darling,"
she went on, not that she really thought so, but she
had acquired the habit--and kept it up in her
kindness of heart--of saying so, in order that her
son might not appear to have married for money.
"Besides," she added with a final enthusiastic
gnashing of her teeth, "she's so harttissttick!" With


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this she stepped into her carriage, nodding her
head, holding the crook of her sunshade aloft like a
crozier, and set off through the streets of Balbec,
overloaded with the ornaments of her priesthood,
like an old Bishop on a confirmation tour.


       "She has asked you to luncheon," the chief
magistrate said to me sternly when the carriage had
passed out of sight and I came indoors with the
girls. "We're not on the best of terms just now. She
feels that I neglect her. Gad, I'm easy enough to get
on with. If anybody needs me, I'm always there to
say: Adsum! But they tried to force my hand. That,
now," he went on with an air of subtlety, holding up
his      finger           as       though             making              and         arguing              a
distinction, "that is a thing I do not allow. It is a
threat to the liberty of my holidays. I was obliged to
say: Stopl You seem to be in her good books. When
you reach my age you will see that society is a very
trumpery thing, and you will be sorry you attached
so much importance to these trifles. Well, I am
going to take a turn before dinner.                                                     Good-bye,


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children," he shouted back at us, as though he were
already fifty yards away.


       When I had said good-bye to Rosemonde and
Gisèle, they saw with astonishment that Albertine
was staying behind instead of accompanying them.
"Why, Albertine, what are you doing, don't you
know what time it is?" "Go home," she replied in a
tone of authority. "I want to talk to him," she
added, indicating myself with a submissive air.
Rosemonde and Gisèle stared at me, filled with a
new and strange respect. I enjoyed the feeling that,
for a moment at least, in the eyes even of
Rosemonde                   and          Gisèle,             I      was          to        Albertine
something more important than the time, than her
friends, and might indeed share solemn secrets with
her into which it was impossible for them to be
admitted. "Shan't we see you again this evening?" "I
don't know, it will depend on this person. Anyhow,
to-morrow." "Let us go up to my room," I said to
her, when her friends had gone.                                          We took the lift;
she remained silent in the boy's presence. The habit


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of being obliged to resort to personal observation
and deduction in order to find out the business of
their masters, those strange beings who converse
among themselves and do not speak to them,
develops in 'employees' (as the lift-boy styled
servants), a stronger power of divination than the
'employer' possesses. Our organs become atrophied
or grow stronger or more subtle, accordingly as our
need         of       them           increases               or       diminishes.                 Since
railways came into existence, the necessity of not
missing the train has taught us to take account of
minutes whereas among the ancient Romans, who
not only had a more cursory science of astronomy
but led less hurried lives, the notion not of minutes
but even of fixed hours barely existed. And so the
lift-boy had gathered and meant to inform his
comrades that Albertine and I were preoccupied.
But he talked to us without ceasing because he had
no tact. And yet I could see upon his face, in place
of the customary expression of friendliness and joy
at taking me up in his lift, an air of extraordinary
depression and uneasiness. As I knew nothing of the


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cause of this, in an attempt to distract his thoughts,
and albeit I was more preoccupied than Albertine, I
told him that the lady who had just left was called
the        Marquise                 de         Cambremer                      and           not         de
Camembert. On the landing at which we were
pausing at the moment, I saw, carrying a pair of
pails, a hideous chambermaid who greeted me with
respect, hoping for a tip when I left. I should have
liked to know if she were the one whom I had so
ardently desired on the evening of my first arrival at
Balbec, but I could never arrive at any certainty.
The lift-boy swore to me with the sincerity of most
false witnesses, but without shedding his expression
of despair, that it was indeed by the name of
Camembert that the Marquise had told him to
announce her. And as a matter of fact it was quite
natural that he should have heard her say a name
which he already knew. Besides, having those very
vague ideas of nobility, and of the names of which
titles are composed, which are shared by many
people who are not lift-boys, the name Camembert
had seemed to him all the more probable inasmuch


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as, that cheese being universally known, it was not
in the least surprising that people should have
acquired a marquisate from so glorious a distinction,
unless it were the marquisate that had bestowed its
renown upon the cheese. Nevertheless as he saw
that I refused to admit that I might be mistaken,
and as he knew that masters like to see their most
futile whims obeyed and their most obvious lies
accepted, he promised me like a good servant that
in future he would say Cambremer. It is true that
none of the shopkeepers in the town, none of the
peasants in the district, where the name and
persons of the Cambremers were perfectly familiar,
could ever have made the lift-boy's mistake. But the
staff of the 'Grand Hotel of Balbec' were none of
them natives. They came direct, with the furniture
and stock, from Biarritz, Nice and Monte-Carlo, one
division           having            been           transferred                 to       Deauville,
another to Dinard and the third reserved for Balbec.


       But the lift-boy's pained anxiety continued to
grow. That he should thus forget to shew his


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devotion to me by the customary smiles, some
misfortune must have befallen him. Perhaps he had
been ''missed.' I made up my mind in that case to
try to secure his reinstatement, the manager having
promised to ratify all my wishes with regard to his
staff. "You can always do just what you like, I rectify
everything in advance." Suddenly, as I stepped out
of the lift, I guessed the meaning of the boy's
distress, his panic-stricken air. Because Albertine
was with me, I had not given him the five francs
which I was in the habit of slipping into his hand
when          I     went           up.         And         the         idiot,         instead             of
understanding that I did not wish to make a display
of generosity in front of a third person, had begun
to tremble, supposing that it was all finished, that I
would never give him anything again. He imagined
that I was 'on the rocks' (as the Duc de Guermantes
would have said), and the supposition inspired him
with no pity for myself but with a terrible selfish
disappointment. I told myself that I was less
unreasonable than my mother thought when I dared
not, one day, refrain from giving the extravagant


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but feverishly awaited sum that I had given the day
before. But at the same time the meaning that I had
until then, and without a shadow of doubt, ascribed
to his habitual expression of joy, in which I had no
hesitation in seeing a sign of devotion, seemed to
me to have become less certain. Seeing the lift-boy
ready, in his despair, to fling himself down from the
fifth floor of the hotel, I asked myself whether, if our
respective social stations were to be altered, in
consequence let us say of a revolution, instead of
politely working his lift for me, the boy, grown
independent, would not have flung me down the
well, and whether there was not, in certain of the
lower orders, more duplicity than in society, where,
no doubt, people reserve their offensive remarks
until we are out of earshot, but where their attitude
towards us would not be insulting if we were
reduced to poverty.


       One cannot however say that, in the Balbec
hotel, the lift-boy was the most commercially
minded. From this point of view the staff might be


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divided into two categories; on the one hand, those
who drew distinctions between the visitors, and
were more grateful for the modest tip of an old
nobleman (who, moreover, was in a position to
relieve them from 28 days of military service by
saying a word for them to General de Beautreillis)
than for the thoughtless liberalities of a cad who by
his very profusion revealed a want of practice which
only to his face did they call generosity.                                                    On the
other hand, those to whom nobility, intellect, fame,
position,            manners                were          nonexistent,                   concealed
under a cash valuation. For these there was but a
single standard, the money one has, or rather the
money one bestows. Possibly Aimé himself, albeit
pretending, in view of the great number of hotels in
which he had served, to a great knowledge of the
world, belonged to this latter category. At the most
he would give a social turn, shewing that he knew
who was who, to this sort of appreciation, as when
he said of the Princesse de Luxembourg: "There's a
pile of money among that lot?" (the question mark
at the end being to ascertain the facts or to check


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such information as he had already ascertained,
before supplying a client with a 'chef for Paris, or
promising him a table on the left, by the door, with
a view of the sea, at Balbec). In spite of this, and
albeit not free from sordid considerations, he would
not have displayed them with the fatuous despair of
the lift-boy. And yet, the latter's artlessness helped
perhaps to simplify things. It is the convenience of a
big hotel, of a house such as Rachel used at one
time to frequent, that, without any intermediary,
the face, frozen stiff until that moment, of a servant
or a woman, at the sight of a hundred-franc note,
still more of one of a thousand, even although it is
being given to some one else, will melt in smiles and
offers of service.                      Whereas in the dealings, in the
relations between lover and mistress, there are too
many           things            interposed                 between                money              and
docility. So many things that the very people upon
whose faces money finally evokes a smile are often
incapable of following the internal process that links
them together, believe themselves to be, and
indeed are more refined. Besides, it rids polite


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conversation of such speeches as: "There's only one
thing left for me to do, you will find me to-morrow
in the mortuary." And so one meets in polite society
few novelists, or poets, few of all those sublime
creatures who speak of the things that are not to be
mentioned.


       As soon as we were alone and had moved along
the corridor, Albertine began: "What is it, you have
got against me?" Had my harsh treatment of her
been painful to myself? Had it been merely an
unconscious ruse on my part, with the object of
bringing my mistress to that attitude of fear and
supplication which would enable me to interrogate
her, and perhaps to find out which of the alternative
hypotheses that I had long since formed about her
was correct? However that may be, when I heard
her question, I suddenly felt the joy of one who
attains to a long desired goal.                                         Before answering
her, I escorted her to the door of my room. Opening
it, I scattered the roseate light that was flooding the
room and turning the white muslin of the curtains


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drawn for the night to golden damask. I went across
to the window; the gulls had settled again upon the
waves; but this time they were pink. I drew
Albertine's attention to them. "Don't change the
subject," she said, "be frank with me." I lied. I
declared to her that she must first listen to a
confession, that of my passionate admiration, for
some time past, of Andrée, and I made her this
confession with a simplicity and frankness worthy of
the stage, but seldom employed in real life except
for a love which people do not feel. Harking back to
the fiction I had employed with Gilberte before my
first visit to Balbec, but adapting its terms, I went
so far (in order to make her more ready to believe
me when I told her now that I was not in love with
her) as to let fall the admission that at one time I
had been on the point of falling in love with her, but
that too long an interval had elapsed, that she could
be nothing more to me now than a good friend and
comrade, and that even if I wished to feel once
again a more ardent sentiment for her it would be
quite beyond my power. As it happened, in taking


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my         stand            thus           before             Albertine                on         these
protestations of coldness towards her, I was merely-
-because of a particular circumstance and with a
particular object in view--making more perceptible,
accentuating more markedly, that dual rhythm
which love adopts in all those who have too little
confidence in themselves to believe that a woman
can ever fall in love with them, and also that they
themselves can genuinely fall in love with her. They
know themselves well enough to have observed that
in the presence of the most divergent types of
woman they felt the same hopes, the same agonies,
invented the same romances, uttered the same
words,           to       have           deduced               therefore               that         their
sentiments,                 their         actions             bear          no        close           and
necessary relation to the woman they love, but pass
by her, spatter her, surround her, like the waves
that break round upon the rocks, and their sense of
their own instability increases still further their
misgivings that this woman, by whom they would so
fain be loved, is not in love with them. Why should
chance have brought it about, when she is simply an


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accident placed so as to catch the ebullience of our
desire, that we should ourselves be the object of the
desire that is animating her? And so, while we feel
the       need           to      pour           out        before            her         all      those
sentiments, so different from the merely human
sentiments that our neighbour inspires in us, those
so highly specialised sentiments which are a lover's,
after we have taken a step forward, in avowing to
her whom we love our affection for her, our hopes,
overcome at once by the fear of offending her,
ashamed too that the speech we have addressed to
her was not composed expressly for her, that it has
served us already, will serve us again for others,
that if she does not love us she cannot understand
us and we have spoken in that case with the want of
taste, of modesty shewn by the pedant who
addresses an ignorant audience in subtle phrases
which are not for them, this fear, this shame bring
into play the counter-rhythm, the reflux, the need,
even by first drawing back, hotly denying the
affection we have already confessed, to resume the
offensive, and to recapture her esteem, to dominate


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her; the double rhythm is perceptible in the various
periods            of       a      single            love          affair,          in       all       the
corresponding periods of similar love affairs, in all
those people whose self-analysis outweighs their
self-esteem. If it was however somewhat more
vigorously accentuated than usual in this speech
which I was now preparing to make to Albertine,
that was simply to allow me to pass more speedily
and more emphatically to the alternate rhythm
which should sound my affection.


       As though it must be painful to Albertine to
believe what I was saying to her as to the
impossibility of my loving her again, after so long an
interval, I justified what I called an eccentricity of
my nature by examples taken from people with
whom I had, by their fault or my own, allowed the
time for loving them to pass, and been unable,
however keenly I might have desired it, to recapture
it. I thus appeared at one and the same time to be
apologising to her, as for a want of courtesy, for this
inability to begin loving her again, and to be seeking


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to make her understand the psychological reasons
for that incapacity as though they had been peculiar
to myself. But by explaining myself in this fashion,
by dwelling upon the case of Gilberte, in regard to
whom the argument had indeed been strictly true
which was becoming so far from true when applied
to Albertine, all that I did was to render my
assertions as plausible as I pretended to believe
that        they           were            not.         Feeling              that          Albertine
appreciated what she called my 'frank speech' and
recognising in my deductions the clarity of the
evidence, I apologised for the former by telling her
that I knew that the truth was always unpleasant
and         in        this         instance                must             seem            to         her
incomprehensible.                         She, on the contrary, thanked
me for my sincerity and added that so far from
being puzzled she understood perfectly a state of
mind so frequent and so natural.


       This         avowal             to      Albertine               of      an        imaginary
sentiment for Andrée, and, towards herself, an
indifference which, that it might appear altogether


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sincere and without exaggeration, I assured her
incidentally, as though by a scruple of politeness,
must not be taken too literally, enabled me at
length, without any fear of Albertine's suspecting
me of loving her, to speak to her with a tenderness
which I had so long denied myself and which
seemed to me exquisite. I almost caressed my
confidant; as I spoke to her of her friend whom I
loved, tears came to my eyes. But, coming at last to
the point, I said to her that she knew what love
meant, its susceptibilities, its sufferings, and that
perhaps, as the old friend that she now was, she
might feel it in her heart to put a stop to the bitter
grief that she was causing me, not directly, since it
was not herself that I loved, if I might venture to
repeat that without offending her, but indirectly by
wounding me in my love for Andrée. I broke off to
admire and point out to Albertine a great bird,
solitary and hastening, which far out in front of us,
lashing the air with the regular beat of its wings,
was passing at full speed over the beach stained
here and there with reflexions like little torn scraps


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of red paper, and crossing it from end to end
without slackening its pace, without diverting its
attention, without deviating from its path, like an
envoy carrying far afield an urgent and vital
message. "He at least goes straight to the point!"
said Albertine in a tone of reproach. "You say that
because you don't know what it is I was going to tell
you. But it is so difficult that I prefer to give it up; I
am certain that I should make you angry; and then
all that will have happened will be this: I shall be in
no way better off with the girl I really love and I
shall have lost a good friend." "But when I swear to
you that I will not be angry." She had so sweet, so
wistfully           docile           an       air,        as       though             her        whole
happiness depended on me, that I could barely
restrain myself from kissing--with almost the same
kind of pleasure that I should have taken in kissing
my        mother--this                   novel           face         which            no       longer
presented the startled, blushing expression of a
rebellious and perverse kitten with its little pink, tip-
tilted nose, but seemed, in the fulness of its
crushing             sorrow,             moulded               in      broad,            flattened,


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drooping             slabs           of      pure          goodness.                 Making             an
abstraction of my love as of a chronic mania that
had no connexion with her, putting myself in her
place, I let my heart be melted before this honest
girl, accustomed to being treated in a friendly and
loyal fashion, whom the good comrade that she
might have supposed me had been pursuing for
weeks past with persecutions which had at last
arrived at their culminating point. It was because I
placed myself at a standpoint that was purely
human, external to both of us, at which my jealous
love dissolved, that I felt for Albertine that profound
pity, which would have been less profound if I had
not       loved            her.         However,                 in       that         rhythmical
oscillation which leads from a declaration to a
quarrel (the surest, the most certainly perilous way
of forming by opposite and successive movements a
knot which will not be loosed and attaches us firmly
to a person by the strain of the movement of
withdrawal                which           constitutes                 one         of       the        two
elements of the rhythm), of what use is it to analyse
farther the refluences of human pity, which, the


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opposite              of       love,           though               springing                perhaps
unconsciously from the same cause, produces in
every case the same effects? When we count up
afterwards the total amount of all that we have
done for a woman, we often discover that the
actions prompted by the desire to shew that we love
her, to make her love us, to win her favours, bulk
little if any greater than those due to the human
need to repair the wrongs that we have done to the
creature whom we love, from a mere sense of moral
duty, as though we were not in love with her. "But
tell me, what on earth have I done?" Albertine
asked me. There was a knock at the door; it was the
lift-boy; Albertine's aunt, who was passing the hotel
in a carriage, had stopped on the chance of finding
her there, to take her home. Albertine sent word
that she could not come, that they were to begin
dinner without her, that she could not say at what
time she would return. "But won't your aunt be
angry?" "What do you suppose? She will understand
all right." And so, at this moment at least, a
moment              such          as       might            never           occur           again--a


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conversation                 with          myself            was          proved            by        this
incident to be in Albertine's eyes a thing of such
self-evident importance that it must be given
precedence over everything, a thing to which,
referring no doubt instinctively to a family code,
enumerating certain crises in which, when the
career of M. Bontemps was at stake, a journey had
been made without a thought, my friend never
doubted that her aunt would think it quite natural to
see her sacrifice the dinner-hour. That remote hour
which she passed without my company, among her
own people, Albertine, having brought it to me,
bestowed it on me; I might make what use of it I
chose. I ended by making bold to tell her what had
been reported to me about her way of living, and
that notwithstanding the profound disgust that I felt
for women tainted with that vice, I had not given it
a thought until I had been told the name of her
accomplice, and that she could readily understand,
loving Andrée as I did, the grief that, the news had
caused me. It would have been more tactful perhaps
to say that I had been given the names of other


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women as well, in whom I was not interested. But
the sudden and terrible revelation that Cottard had
made to me had entered my heart to lacerate it,
complete in itself but without accretions. And just
as, before that moment, it would never have
occurred to me that Albertine was in love with
Andrée, or at any rate could find pleasure in
caressing her, if Cottard had not drawn my attention
to their attitude as they waltzed together, so I had
been incapable of passing from that idea to the idea,
so different for me, that Albertine might have, with
other women than Andrée, relations for which
affection could not be pleaded in excuse. Albertine,
before even swearing to me that it was not true,
shewed, like everyone upon learning that such
things are being said about him, anger, concern,
and, with regard to the unknown slanderer, a fierce
curiosity to know who he was and a desire to be
confronted with him so as to be able to confound
him. But she assured me that she bore me, at least,
no resentment. "If it had been true, I should have
told you. But Andrée and I both loathe that sort of


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thing. We have not lived all these years without
seeing women with cropped hair who behave like
men and do the things you mean, and nothing
revolts us more." Albertine gave me merely her
word, a peremptory word unsupported by proof. But
this was just what was best calculated to calm me,
jealousy belonging to that family of sickly doubts
which are better purged by the energy than by the
probability of an affirmation. It is moreover the
property of love to make us at once more distrustful
and more credulous, to make us suspect, more
readily than we should suspect anyone else, her
whom we love, and be convinced more easily by her
denials. We must be in love before we can care that
all women are not virtuous, which is to say before
we can be aware of the fact, and we must be in love
too before we can hope, that is to say assure
ourselves that some are. It is human to seek out
what hurts us and then at once to seek to get rid of
it. The statements that are capable of so relieving
us seem quite naturally true, we are not inclined to
cavil at a sedative that acts. Besides, however


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multiform may be the person with whom we are in
love, she can in any case offer us two essential
personalities accordingly as she appears to us as
ours, or as turning her desires in another direction.
The former of these personalities possesses the
peculiar power which prevents us from believing in
the reality of the other, the secret remedy to heal
the sufferings that this latter has caused us. The
beloved object is successively the malady and the
remedy that suspends and aggravates it. No doubt,
I had long since been prepared, by the strong
impression made on my imagination and my faculty
for emotion by the example of Swann, to believe in
the truth of what I feared rather than of what I
should have wished. And so the comfort brought me
by Albertine's affirmations came near to being
jeopardised for a moment, because I was reminded
of the story of Odette. But I told myself that, if it
was only right to allow for the worst, not only when,
in order to understand Swann's sufferings, I had
tried to put myself in his place, but now, when I
myself was concerned, in seeking the truth as


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though it referred to some one else, still I must not,
out of cruelty to myself, a soldier who chooses the
post not where he can be of most use but where he
is most exposed, end in the mistake of regarding
one supposition as more true than the rest, simply
because it was more painful. Was there not a vast
gulf between Albertine, a girl of good, middle-class
parentage, and Odette, a courtesan bartered by her
mother            in      her        childhood?                There            could          be       no
comparison of their respective credibility. Besides,
Albertine had in no respect the same interest in
lying to me that Odette had had in lying to Swann.
Moreover               to       him         Odette             had          admitted               what
Albertine had just denied. I should therefore be
guilty of an error in reasoning as serious--though in
the opposite direction--as that which had inclined
me towards a certain hypothesis because it had
caused me less pain than the rest, were I not to
take into account these material differences in their
positions, but to reconstruct the real life of my
mistress solely from what I had been told about the
life of Odette. I had before me a new Albertine, of


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whom I had already, it was true, caught more than
one glimpse towards the end of my previous visit to
Balbec, frank and honest, an Albertine who had, out
of affection for myself, forgiven me my suspicions
and tried to dispel them. She made me sit down by
her side upon my bed. I thanked her for what she
had said to me, assured her that our reconciliation
was complete, and that I would never be horrid to
her again. I suggested to her that she ought, at the
same time, to go home to dinner. She asked me
whether I was not glad to have her with me.
Drawing my head towards her for a caress which
she had never before given me and which I owed
perhaps to the healing of our rupture, she passed
her tongue lightly over my lips which she attempted
to force apart. At first I kept them tight shut. "You
are a great bear!" she informed me.


       I ought to have left the place that evening and
never set eyes on her again. I felt even then that in
a love which is not reciprocated--I might as well
say, in love, for there are people for whom there is


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no such thing as reciprocated love--we can enjoy
only that simulacrum of happiness which had been
given me at one of those unique moments in which
a woman's good nature, or her caprice, or mere
chance, bring to our desires, in perfect coincidence,
the same words, the same actions as if we were
really loved. The wiser course would have been to
consider with curiosity, to possess with delight that
little parcel of happiness failing which I should have
died without ever suspecting what it could mean to
hearts less difficult to please                                          or       more           highly
favoured; to suppose that it formed part of a vast
and enduring happiness of which this fragment only
was visible to me, and--lest the next day should
expose this fiction--not to attempt to ask for any
fresh favour after this, which had been due only to
the artifice of an exceptional moment. I ought to
have left Balbec, to have shut myself up in solitude,
to have remained so in harmony with the last
vibrations of the voice which I had contrived to
render amorous for an instant, and of which I should
have asked nothing more than that it might never


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address another word to me; for fear lest, by an
additional word which now could only be different, it
might shatter with a discord the sensitive silence in
which, as though by the pressure of a pedal, there
might long have survived in me the throbbing chord
of happiness.


       Soothed by my explanation with Albertine, I
began once again to live in closer intimacy with my
mother. She loved to talk to me gently about the
days in which my grandmother had been younger.
Fearing that I might reproach myself with the
sorrows with which I had perhaps darkened the
close of my grandmother's life, she preferred to turn
back to the years when the first signs of my
dawning intelligence had given my grandmother a
satisfaction which until now had always been kept
from me. We talked of the old days at Combray. My
mother reminded me that there at least I used to
read, and that at Balbec I might well do the same, if
I was not going to work. I replied that, to surround
myself with memories of Combray and of the


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charming coloured plates, I should like to read again
the Thousand and One Nights. As, long ago at
Combray, when she gave me books for my birthday,
so it was in secret, as a surprise for me, that my
mother now sent for both the Thousand and One
Nights of Galland and the Thousand Nights and a
Night of Mardrus. But, after casting her eye over the
two translations, my mother would have preferred
that I should stick to Galland's, albeit hesitating to
influence me because of the respect that she felt for
intellectual liberty, her dread of interfering with my
intellectual life and the feeling that, being a woman,
on the one hand she lacked, or so she thought, the
necessary literary equipment, and on the other hand
ought not to condemn because she herself was
shocked             by       it     the        reading             of      a      young            man.
Happening upon certain of the tales, she had been
revolted by the immorality of the subject and the
crudity of the expression. But above all, preserving,
like precious relics, not only the brooch, the
sunshade, the cloak, the volume of Madame de
Sévigné, but also the habits of thought and speech


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of her mother, seeking on every occasion the
opinion that she would have expressed, my mother
could have no doubt of the horror with which my
grandmother                   would           have           condemned                   Mardrus's
book. She remembered that at Combray while
before setting out for a walk, Méséglise way, I was
reading Augustin Thierry, my grandmother, glad
that I should be reading, and taking walks, was
indignant nevertheless at seeing him whose name
remained enshrined in the hemistich: 'Then reignèd
Mérovée'                called             Merowig,                  refused               to         say
'Carolingians' for the 'Carlovingians' to which she
remained loyal. And then I told her what my
grandmother had thought of the Greek names which
Bloch, following Leconte de Lisle, gave to the gods
of Homer, going so far, in the simplest matters, as
to make it a religious duty, in which he supposed
literary talent to consist, to adopt a Greek system of
spelling. Having occasion, for instance, to mention
in a letter that the wine which they drank at his
home was real nectar, he would write 'real nektar,'
with a k, which enabled him to titter at the mention


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of Lamartine. And if an Odyssey from which the
names of Ulysses and Minerva were missing was no
longer the Odyssey to her, what would she have
said upon seeing corrupted even upon the cover the
title of her Thousand and One Nights, upon no
longer finding, exactly transcribed as she had all her
life been in the habit of pronouncing them, the
immortally familiar names of Scheherazade, of
Dinarzade, in which, debaptised themselves (if one
may use the expression of Musulman tales), the
charming Caliph and the powerful Genies were
barely recognisable, being renamed, he the 'Khalifat'
and they the 'Gennis.' Still, my mother handed over
both books to me, and I told her that I would read
them on the days when I. felt too tired to go out.


       These days were not very frequent, however.
We used to go out picnicking as before in a band,
Albertine, her friends and myself, on the cliff or to
the farm called Marie-Antoinette. But there were
times when Albertine bestowed on me this great
pleasure. She would say to me: "To-day I want to


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be alone with you for a little, it will be nicer if we are
just by ourselves." Then she would give out that she
was         busy,           not         that          she          need           furnish             any
explanation, and so that the others, if they went all
the same, without us, for an excursion and picnic,
might not be able to find us, we would steal away
like a pair of lovers, all by ourselves to Bagatelle or
the Cross of Heulan, while the band, who would
never think of looking for us there and never went
there, waited indefinitely, in the hope of seeing us
appear, at Marie-Antoinette. I recall the hot weather
that we had then, when from the brow of each of
the farm-labourers toiling in the sun a drop of sweat
would fall, vertical, regular, intermittent, like the
drop of water from a cistern, and alternate with the
fall of the ripe fruit dropping from the tree in the
adjoining 'closes'; they have remained, to this day,
with that mystery of a woman's secret, the most
substantial part of every love that offers itself to
me. A woman who has been mentioned to me and
to whom I would not give a moment's thought--I
upset all my week's engagements to make her


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acquaintance, if it is a week of similar weather, and
I am to meet her in some isolated farmhouse. It is
no good my knowing that this kind of weather, this
kind of assignation are not part of her, they are still
the bait, which I know all too well, by which I allow
myself to be tempted and which is sufficient to hook
me. I know that this woman, in cold weather, in a
town, I might perhaps have desired, but without the
accompaniment of a romantic sentiment, without
becoming amorous; my love for her is none the less
keen as soon as, by force of circumstances, it has
enthralled me--it is only the more melancholy, as in
the course of life our sentiments for other people
become, in proportion as we become more clearly
aware of the ever smaller part that they play in our
life and that the new love which we would like to be
so permanent, cut short in the same moment as life
itself, will be the last.


       There were still but a few people at Balbec,
hardly any girls. Sometimes I saw some girl resting
upon          the        beach,             devoid            of       charm,             and          yet


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apparently identified by various features as one
whom I had been in despair at not being able to
approach at the moment when she emerged with
her friends from the riding school or gymnasium. If
it was the same (and I took care not to mention the
matter to Albertine), then the girl that I had thought
so exciting did not exist. But I could not arrive at
any certainty, for the face of any one of these girls
did not fill any space upon the beach, did not offer a
permanent form, contracted, dilated, transformed as
it was by my own observation, the uneasiness of my
desire or a sense of comfort that was self-sufficient,
by the different clothes that she was wearing, the
rapidity of her movements or her immobility. All the
same, two or three of them seemed to me adorable.
Whenever I saw one of these, I longed to take her
away along the Avenue des Tamaris, or among the
sandhills, better still upon the cliff. But, albeit into
desire, as opposed to indifference, there enters
already that audacity which is a first stage, if only
unilateral,              towards              realisation,                 all       the         same,
between my desire and the action that my request


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to be allowed to kiss her would have been, there
was all the indefinite blank of hesitation, of timidity.
Then I went into the pastrycook's bar, I drank, one
after another, seven or eight glasses of port wine.
At once, instead of the impassable gulf between my
desire and action, the effect of the alcohol traced a
line that joined them together. No longer was there
any room for hesitation or fear. It seemed to me
that the girl was about to fly into my arms. I went
up to her, the words came spontaneously to my
lips: "I should like to go for a walk with you. You
wouldn't care to go along the cliff, we shan't be
disturbed behind the little wood that keeps the wind
off the wooden bungalow that is empty just now?"
All the difficulties of life were smoothed away, there
was no longer any obstacle to the conjunction of our
two bodies. No obstacle for me, at least. For they
had not been volatilised for her, who had not been
drinking port wine. Had she done so, had the outer
world lost some of its reality in her eyes, the long
cherished dream that would then have appeared to
her to be suddenly realisable might perhaps have


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been not at all that of falling into my arms.


       Not only were the girls few in number but at this
season which was not yet 'the season' they stayed
but a short time. There is one I remember with a
reddish skin, green eyes and a pair of ruddy cheeks,
whose slight symmetrical face resembled the winged
seeds of certain trees. I cannot say what breeze
wafted her to Balbec or what other bore her away.
So sudden was her removal that for some days
afterwards I was haunted by a grief which I made
bold to confess to Albertine when I realised that the
girl had gone for ever.


       I should add that several of them were either
girls whom I did not know at all or whom I had not
seen for years. Often, before addressing them, I
wrote to them. If their answer allowed me to believe
in the possibility of love, what joy! We cannot, at
the outset of our friendship with a woman, even if
that friendship is destined to come to nothing, bear
to part from those first letters that we have received


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from her. We like to have them beside us all the
time, like a present of rare flowers, still quite fresh,
at which we cease to gaze only to draw them closer
to us and smell them. The sentence that we know
by heart, it is pleasant to read again, and in those
that we have committed less accurately to memory
we like to verify the degree of affection in some
expression. Did she write: 'Your dear letter'? A slight
marring of our bliss, which must be ascribed either
to our having read too quickly, or to the illegible
handwriting of our correspondent; she did not say:
'Your dear letter' but 'From your letter.' But the rest
is so tender. Oh, that more such flowers may come
to-morrow. Then that is no longer enough, we must
with the written words compare the writer's eyes,
her face. We make an appointment, and--without
her having altered, perhaps--whereas we expected,
from the description given us or our personal
memory, to meet the fairy Viviane, we encounter
Puss-in-Boots.                          We           make             an          appointment,
nevertheless, for the following day, for it is, after all,
she, and the person we desired is she. And these


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desires for a woman of whom we have been
dreaming do not make beauty of form and feature
essential. These desires are only the desire for a
certain person; vague as perfumes, as styrax was
the desire of Prothyraia, saffron the ethereal desire,
aromatic scents the desire of Hera, myrrh the
perfume of the Magi, manna the desire of Nike,
incense the perfume of the sea. But these perfumes
that are sung in the Orphic hymns are far fewer in
number than the deities they worship. Myrrh is the
perfume of the Magi, but also of Protogonos,
Neptune, Nereus, Leto; incense is the perfume of
the sea, but also of the fair Dike, of Themis, of
Circe, of the Nine Muses, of Eos, of Mnemosyne, of
the Day, of Dikaiosyne. As for styrax, manna and
aromatic scents, it would be impossible to name all
the deities that inhale them, so many are they.
Amphietes has all the perfumes except incense, and
Gaia rejects only beans and aromatic scents. So was
it with these desires for different girls that I felt.
Fewer in number than the girls themselves, they
changed into disappointments and regrets closely


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similar one to another. I never wished for myrrh. I
reserved it for Jupien and for the Prince de
Guermantes, for it is the desire of Protogonos "of
twofold sex, who roars like a bull, of countless
orgies,            memorable,                     unspeakable,                      descending,
joyous, to the sacrifices of the Orgiophants."


       But presently the season was in full swing;
every day there was some fresh arrival, and for the
sudden increase in the frequency of my outings,
which took the place of the charmed perusal of the
Thousand and One Nights, there was a reason
devoid of pleasure which poisoned them all.                                                           The
beach was now peopled with girls, and, since the
idea suggested to me by Cottard had not indeed
furnished me with fresh suspicions but had rendered
me sensitive and weak in that quarter and careful
not to let any suspicion take shape in my mind, as
soon as a young woman arrived at Balbec, I began
to feel ill at ease, I proposed to Albertine the most
distant excursions, in order that she might not make
the       newcomer's                    acquaintance,                     and         indeed,              if


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possible, might not set eyes on her. I dreaded
naturally even more those women whose dubious
ways were remarked or their bad reputation already
known; I tried to persuade my mistress that this
bad reputation had no foundation, was a slander,
perhaps, without admitting it to myself, from a fear,
still unconscious, that she might seek to make
friends with the depraved woman or regret her
inability to do so, because of me, or might conclude
from the number of examples that a vice so
widespread was not to be condemned. In denying
the guilt of each of them, my intention was nothing
less than to pretend that sapphism did not exist.
Albertine             adopted                my         incredulity                as        to        the
viciousness of this one or that. "No, I think it's just
a pose, she wants to look the part." But then, I
regretted almost that I had pleaded the other's
innocence, for it distressed me that Albertine,
formerly so severe, could believe that this 'part' was
a thing so flattering, so advantageous, that a
woman innocent of such tastes could seek to 'look
it.' I would have liked to be sure that no more


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women were coming to Balbec; I trembled when I
thought that, as it was almost time for Mme. Putbus
to arrive at the Verdurins', her maid, whose tastes
Saint-Loup had not concealed from me, might take
it into her head to come down to the beach, and, if
it were a day on which I was not with Albertine,
might seek to corrupt her. I went the length of
asking myself whether, as Cottard had made no
secret of the fact that the Verdurins thought highly
of me and, while not wishing to appear, as he put it,
to be running after me, would give a great deal to
have me come to their house, I might not, on the
strength of promises to bring all the Guermantes in
existence to call on them in Paris, induce Mme.
Verdurin, upon some pretext or other, to inform
Mme. Putbus that it was impossible to keep her
there any longer and make her leave the place at
once. Notwithstanding these thoughts, and as it was
chiefly the presence of Andrée that was disturbing
me, the soothing effect that Albertine's words had
had upon me still to some extent persisted--I knew
moreover that presently I should have less need of


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it, as Andrée would be leaving the place with
Rosemonde and Gisèle just about the time when the
crowd began to arrive and would be spending only a
few weeks more with Albertine. During these weeks,
moreover,                Albertine              seemed               to       have           planned
everything that she did, everything that she said,
with a view to destroying my suspicions if any
remained, or to prevent them from reviving. She
contrived never to be left alone with Andrée, and
insisted, when we came back from an excursion,
upon my accompanying her to her door, upon my
coming to fetch her when we were going anywhere.
Andrée meanwhile took just as much trouble on her
side, seemed to avoid meeting Albertine. And this
apparent understanding between them was not the
only indication that Albertine must have informed
her friend of our conversation and have asked her to
be so kind as to calm my absurd suspicions.


       About this time there occurred at the Grand
Hotel a scandal which was not calculated to modify
the intensity of my torment. Bloch's cousin had for


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some time past been indulging, with a retired
actress, in secret relations which presently ceased
to satisfy them. That they should be seen seemed to
them to add perversity to their pleasure, they chose
to flaunt their perilous sport before the eyes of all
the world. They began with caresses, which might,
after all, be set down to a friendly intimacy, in the
card-room, by the baccarat-table. Then they grew
more bold. And finally, one evening, in a corner that
was not even dark of the big ball-room, on a sofa,
they made no more attempt to conceal what they
were doing than if they had been in bed. Two
officers who happened to be near, with their wives,
complained to the manager. It was thought for a
moment that their protest would be effective. But
they had this against them that, having come over
for the evening from Netteholme, where they were
staying, they could not be of any use to the
manager. Whereas, without her knowing it even,
and whatever remarks the manager may have made
to her, there hovered over Mlle. Bloch the protection
of M. Nissim Bernard. I must explain why. M. Nissim


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Bernard carried to their highest pitch the family
virtues.           Every year he took a magnificent villa at
Balbec for his nephew, and no invitation would have
dissuaded him from going home to dine at his own
table, which was in reality theirs. But he never took
his luncheon at home. Every day at noon he was at
the Grand Hotel. The fact of the matter was that he
was keeping, as other men keep a chorus-girl from
the opera, an embryo waiter of much the same type
as the pages of whom we have spoken, and who
made us think of the young Israelites in Esther and
Athalie. It is true that the forty years' difference in
age between M. Nis-sim Bernard and the young
waiter ought to have preserved the latter from a
contact that was scarcely pleasant. But, as Racine
so wisely observes in those same choruses:


            Great God, with what uncertain tread                                                           A
budding virtue 'mid such perils goes!                                                              What
stumbling-blocks do lie before a soul                                                 That seeks
Thee and would fain be innocent.



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       The young waiter might indeed have been
brought up 'remote from the world' in the Temple-
Caravanserai of Balbec, he had not followed the
advice of Joad:


          In riches and in gold put not thy trust.


       He had perhaps justified himself by saying: "The
wicked cover the earth." However that might be,
and albeit M. Nissim Bernard had not expected so
rapid a conquest, on the very first day,


          Were't in alarm, or anxious to caress,                                                He felt
those childish arms about him thrown.


       And by the second day, M. Nissim Bernard
having taken the young waiter out,


          The dire assault his innocence destroyed.


       >From that moment the boy's life was altered.
He might indeed carry bread and salt, as his


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superior bade him, his whole face sang:


           From flowers to flowers, from joys to keener
joys        Let our desires now range.                                      Uncertain is our
tale of fleeting years.                           Haste we then to enjoy this
life!       Honours and fame are the reward                                                  Of blind
and meek obedience.                              For moping innocence                               Who
now would raise his voice!


        Since that day, M. Nissim Bernard had never
failed to come and occupy his seat at the luncheon-
table (as a man would occupy his in the stalls who
was keeping a dancer, a dancer in this case of a
distinct and special type, which still awaits its
Degas). It was M. Nissim Bernard's delight to follow
over the floor of the restaurant and down the
remote vista to where beneath her palm the cashier
sat enthroned, the evolutions of the adolescent
hurrying in service, in the service of everyone, and,
less than anyone, of M. Nissim Bernard, now that
the latter was keeping him, whether because the
young chorister did not think it necessary to display


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the same friendliness to a person by whom he
supposed himself to be sufficiently well loved, or
because that love annoyed him or he feared lest, if
discovered,                 it      might             make             him           lose         other
opportunities. But this very coldness pleased M.
Nissim Bernard, because of all that it concealed;
whether from Hebraic atavism or from profanation
of the Christian spirit, he took a singular pleasure,
were         it      Jewish             or       Catholic,              in      the         Racinian
ceremony. Had it been a real performance of Esther
or Athalie, M. Bernard would have regretted that the
gulf of centuries must prevent him from making the
acquaintance of the author, Jean Racine, so that he
might obtain for his protégé a more substantial part.
But as the luncheon ceremony came from no
author's pen, he contented himself with being on
good terms with the manager and Aimé, so that the
'young Israelite' might be promoted to the coveted
post of under-waiter, or even full waiter to a row of
tables.           The post of wine waiter had been offered
him. But M. Bernard made him decline it, for he
would no longer have been able to come every day


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to watch him race about the green dining-room and
to be waited upon by him like a stranger. Now this
pleasure was so keen that every year M. Bernard
returned to Balbec and took his luncheon away from
home, habits in which M. Bloch saw, in the former a
poetical fancy for the bright sunshine, the sunsets of
this coast favoured above all others, in the latter the
inveterate mania of an old bachelor.


       As a matter of fact, the mistake made by M.
Nissim Bernard's relatives, who never suspected the
true reason for his annual return to Balbec and for
what the pedantic Mme. Bloch called his absentee
palate, was really a more profound and secondary
truth. For M. Nissim Bernard himself was unaware
how much there was of love for the beach at Balbec,
for the view one enjoyed from the restaurant over
the sea, and of maniacal habits in the fancy that he
had for keeping, like a dancing girl of another kind
which still lacks a Degas, one of his servants the
rest of whom were still girls. And so M. Nissim
Bernard maintained, with the director of this theatre


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which was the hotel at Balbec, and with the stage-
manager and producer Aimé--whose part in all this
affair was anything but simple--excellent relations.
One day they would intrigue to procure an important
part,        a      place          perhaps              as       headwaiter.                  In       the
meantime M. Nissim Bernard's pleasure, poetical
and calmly contemplative as it might be, reminded
one a little of those women-loving men who always
know--Swann, for example, in the past--that if they
go out to a party they will meet their mistress. No
sooner had M. Nissim Bernard taken his seat than
he would see the object of his affections appear on
the scene, bearing in his hand fruit or cigars upon a
tray. And so every morning, after kissing his niece,
bothering my friend Bloch about his work and
feeding his horses with lumps of sugar from the
palm of his outstretched hand, he would betray a
feverish haste to arrive in time for luncheon at the
Grand Hotel. Had the house been on fire, had his
niece had a stroke, he would doubtless have started
off just the same. So that he dreaded like the
plague a cold that would confine him to his bed--for


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he was a hypochondriac--and would oblige him to
ask Aimé to send his young friend across to visit
him at home, between luncheon and tea-time.


       He loved moreover all the labyrinth of corridors,
private             offices,             reception-rooms,                           cloakrooms,
larders, galleries which composed the hotel at
Balbec. With a strain of oriental atavism he loved a
seraglio, and when he went out at night might be
seen        furtively             exploring               its      passages.                    While,
venturing down to the basement and endeavouring
at the same time to escape notice and to avoid a
scandal, M. Nissim Bernard, in his quest of the
young Lévites, put one in mind of those lines in La
Juive:


          O God of our Fathers, come down to us again,
Our mysteries veil from the eyes of wicked men!


       I on the contrary would go up to the room of
two sisters who had come to Balbec, as her maids,
with an old lady, a foreigner. They were what the


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language of hotels called 'couriers,' and that of
Françoise, who imagined that a courier was a person
who was there to run his course, two 'coursers.' The
hotels have remained, more nobly, in the period
when people sang: "C'est un courrier de cabinet."


       Difficult as it was for a visitor to penetrate to the
servants' quarters, I had very soon formed a mutual
bond of friendship, as strong as it was pure, with
these         two         young            persons,              Mademoiselle                     Marie
Gineste and Madame Céleste Albaret. Born at the
foot of the high mountains in the centre of France,
on the banks of rivulets and torrents (the water
passed actually under their old home, turning a
millwheel, and the house had often been damaged
by floods), they seemed to embody the features of
that region. Marie Gineste was more regularly rapid
and        abrupt,            Céleste             Albaret             softer          and          more
languishing, spread out like a lake, but with terrible
boiling rages in which her fury suggested the peril of
spates and gales that sweep everything before
them. They often came in the morning to see me


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when I was still in bed. I have never known people
so deliberately ignorant, who had learned absolutely
nothing at school, and yet whose language was
somehow so literary that, but for the almost savage
naturalness of their tone, one would have thought
their speech affected. With a familiarity which I
reproduce verbatim, notwithstanding the praises
(which I set down here in praise not of myself but of
the strange genius of Céleste) and the criticisms,
equally unfounded, in which her remarks seem to
involve me, while I dipped crescent rolls in my milk,
Céleste would say to me: "Oh! Little black devil with
hair of jet, O profound wickedness! I don't know
what your mother was thinking of when she made
you, for you are just like a bird. Look, Marie,
wouldn't you say he was preening his feathers, and
turning his head right round, so light he looks, you
would say he was just learning to fly. Ah! It's
fortunate for you that those who bred you brought
you into the world to rank and riches; what would
ever have become of you, so wasteful as you are.
Look at him throwing away his crescent because it


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touched the bed. There he goes, now, look, he's
spilling his milk, wait till I tie a napkin round you,
for you could never do it for yourself, never in my
life have I seen anyone so helpless and so clumsy as
you." I would then hear the more regular sound of
the torrent of Marie Gineste who was furiously
reprimanding her sister: "Will you hold your tongue,
now, Céleste. Are you mad, talking to Monsieur like
that?" Céleste merely smiled; and as I detested
having a napkin tied round my neck: "No, Marie,
look at him, bang, he's shot straight up on end like
a serpent. A proper serpent, I tell you." These were
but a few of her zoological similes, for, according to
her, it was impossible to tell when I slept, I fluttered
about all night like a butterfly, and in the day time I
was as swift as the squirrels. "You know, Marie, the
way we see them at home, so nimble that even with
your eyes you can't follow them." "But, Céleste, you
know he doesn't like having a napkin when he's
eating." "It isn't that he doesn't like it, it's so that he
can say nobody can make him do anything against
his will. He's a grand gentleman and he wants to


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shew that he is. They can change the sheets ten
times over, if they must, but he won't give way.
Yesterday's had served their time, but to-day they
have only just been put on the bed and they'll have
to be changed already. Oh, I was right when I said
that he was never meant to be born among the
poor. Look, his hair's standing on end, swelling with
rage like a bird's feathers. Poor ploumissou!" Here it
was not only Marie that protested, but myself, for I
did not feel in the least like a grand gentleman. But
Céleste would never believe in the sincerity of my
modesty and cut me short. "Oh! The story-teller!
Oh! The flatterer! Oh! The false one! The cunning
rogue! Oh! Molière!" (This was the only writer's
name that she knew, but she applied it to me,
meaning thereby a person who was capable both of
writing plays and of acting them.) "Céleste!" came
the imperious cry from Marie, who, not knowing the
name of Molière, was afraid that it might be some
fresh insult. Céleste continued to smile: "Then you
haven't seen the photograph of him in his drawer,
when he was little. He tried to make us believe that


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he was always dressed quite simply. And there, with
his little cane, he's all furs and laces, such as no
Prince ever wore. But that's nothing compared with
his tremendous majesty and kindness which is even
more profound." "So then," scolded the torrent
Marie, "you go rummaging in his drawers now, do
you?" To calm Marie's fears I asked her what she
thought of M. Nissim Bernard's behaviour.... "Ah!
Monsieur, there are things I wouldn't have believed
could exist. One has to come here to learn." And,
for once outrivalling Céleste by an even more
profound observation: "Ah! You see, Monsieur, one
can never tell what there may be in a person's life."
To change the subject, I spoke to her of the life led
by my father, who toiled night and day. "Ah!
Monsieur, there are people who keep nothing of
their life for themselves, not one minute, not one
pleasure, the whole thing is a sacrifice for others,
they are lives that are given away." "Look, Marie, he
has only to put his hand on the counterpane and
take his crescent, what distinction. He can do the
most insignificant things, you would say that the


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whole nobility of France, from here to the Pyrenees,
was stirring in each of his movements."


       Overpowered by this portrait so far from lifelike,
I remained silent; Céleste interpreted my silence as
a further instance of guile: "Oh! Brow that looks so
pure, and hides so many things, nice, cool cheeks
like the inside of an almond, little hands of satin all
velvety, nails like claws," and so forth. "There,
Marie,          look         at       him         sipping             his       milk          with         a
devoutness that makes me want to say my prayers.
What a serious air! They ought really to take his
portrait as he is just now. He's just like a child. Is it
drinking milk, like them, that has kept you their
bright colour? Oh! Youth! Oh! Lovely skin. You will
never grow old. You are a lucky one, you will never
need to raise your hand against anyone, for you
have a pair of eyes that can make their will be done.
Look at him now, he's angry. He shoots up, straight
as a sign-post."


       Françoise did not at all approve of what she


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called the two 'tricksters' coming to talk to me like
this. The manager, who made his staff keep watch
over everything that went on, even gave me a
serious warning that it was not proper for a visitor
to talk to servants. I, who found the 'tricksters' far
better than any visitor in the hotel, merely laughed
in his face, convinced that he would not understand
my explanations. And the sisters returned. "Look,
Marie, at his delicate lines. Oh, perfect miniature,
finer than the most precious you could see in a glass
case, for he can move, and utters words you could
listen to for days and nights."


       It was a miracle that a foreign lady could have
brought them there, for, without knowing anything
of history or geography, they heartily detested the
English, the Germans, the Russians, the Italians, all
foreign vermin, and cared, with certain exceptions,
for French people alone. Their faces had so far
preserved the moisture of the pliable clay of their
native river beds, that, as soon as one mentioned a
foreigner who was staying in the hotel, in order to


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repeat what he had said, Céleste and Marie imposed
upon their faces his face, their mouths became his
mouth, their eyes his eyes, one would have liked to
preserve these admirable comic masks.                                                         Céleste
indeed, while pretending merely to be repeating
what the manager had said, or one of my friends,
would insert in her little narrative fictitious remarks
in which were maliciously portrayed all the defects
of Bloch, the chief magistrate, etc., while apparently
unconscious of doing so. It was, under the form of
the delivery of a simple message which she had
obligingly             undertaken                  to      convey,              an       inimitable
portrait. They never read anything, not even a
newspaper. One day, however, they found lying on
my bed a book. It was a volume of the admirable
but obscure poems of Saint-Léger Léger. Céleste
read a few pages and said to me: "But are you quite
sure that these are poetry, wouldn't they just be
riddles?" Obviously, to a person who had learned in
her childhood a single poem: "Down here the lilacs
die," there was a gap in evolution. I fancy that their
obstinate refusal to learn anything was due in part


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to the unhealthy climate of their early home. They
had nevertheless all the gifts of a poet with more
modesty than poets generally shew. For if Céleste
had said something noteworthy and, unable to
remember it correctly, I asked her to repeat it, she
would assure me that she had forgotten. They will
never read any books, but neither will they ever
write any.


       Françoise was considerably impressed when she
learned that the two brothers of these humble
women             had          married,               one         the         niece           of       the
Archbishop of Tours, the other a relative of the
Bishop of Rodez. To the manager, this would have
conveyed                nothing.               Céleste               would             sometimes
reproach her husband with his failure to understand
her, and as for me, I was astonished that he could
endure her. For at certain moments, raging, furious,
destroying everything, she was detestable. It is said
that the salt liquid which is our blood is only an
internal survival of the primitive marine element.
Similarly, I believe that Céleste, not only in her


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bursts of fury, but also in her hours of depression
preserved the rhythm of her native streams. When
she was exhausted, it was after their fashion; she
had literally run dry. Nothing could then have
revived her. Then all of a sudden the circulation was
restored in her large body, splendid and light. The
water flowed in the opaline transparence of her
bluish skin. She smiled at the sun and became bluer
still. At such moments she was truly celestial.


       Bloch's family might never have suspected the
reason which made their uncle never take his
luncheon at home and have accepted it from the
first as the mania of an elderly bachelor, due
perhaps to the demands of his intimacy with some
actress;            everything                 that         concerned                 M.        Nissim
Bernard was tabu to the manager of the Balbec
hotel. And that was why, without even referring to
the uncle, he had finally not ventured to find fault
with the niece, albeit recommending her to be a
little more circumspect. And so the girl and her
friend who, for some days, had pictured themselves


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as excluded from the casino and the Grand Hotel,
seeing that everything was settled, were delighted
to shew those fathers of families who held aloof
from them that they might with impunity take the
utmost liberties. No doubt they did not go so far as
to repeat the public exhibition which had revolted
everybody. But gradually they returned to their old
ways. And one evening as I came out of the casino
which was half in darkness with Albertine and Bloch
whom we had met there, they came towards us,
linked together, kissing each other incessantly, and,
as they passed us, crowed and laughed, uttering
indecent cries. Bloch lowered his eyes, so as to
seem not to have recognised his cousin, and as for
myself I was tortured by the thought that this
occult, appalling language was addressed perhaps to
Albertine.


       Another incident turned my thoughts even more
in the direction of Gomorrah. I had noticed upon the
beach a handsome young woman, erect and pale,
whose eyes, round their centre, scattered rays so


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geometrically luminous that one was reminded, on
meeting her gaze, of some constellation. I thought
how        much            more           beautiful              this        girl       was         than
Albertine, and that it would be wiser to give up the
other. Only, the face of this beautiful young woman
had been smoothed by the invisible plane of an
utterly low life, of the constant acceptance of vulgar
expedients, so much so that her eyes, more noble
however than the rest of her face, could radiate
nothing but appetites and desires. Well, on the
following day, this young woman being seated a
long way away from us in the casino, I saw that she
never ceased to fasten upon Albertine the alternate,
circling fires of her gaze. One would have said that
she was making signals to her from a lighthouse. I
dreaded my friend's seeing that she was being so
closely observed, I was afraid that these incessantly
rekindled glances might have the conventional
meaning of an amorous assignation for the morrow.
For all I knew, this assignation might not be the
first. The young woman with the radiant eyes might
have come another year to Balbec. It was perhaps


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because             Albertine              had         already             yielded            to       her
desires, or to those of a friend, that this woman
allowed herself to address to her those flashing
signals.           If      so,        they          did        more            than          demand
something for the present, they found a justification
in pleasant hours in the past.


       This assignation, in that case, must be not the
first, but the sequel to adventures shared in past
years. And indeed her glance did not say: "Will
you?" As soon as the young woman had caught
sight of Albertine, she had turned her head and
beamed upon her glances charged with recollection,
as though she were terribly afraid that my friend
might not remember. Albertine, who could see her
plainly, remained phlegmatically motionless, with
the result that the other, with the same sort of
discretion as a man who sees his old mistress with a
new lover, ceased to look at her and paid no more
attention to her than if she had not existed.


       But, a day or two later, I received a proof of this


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young           woman's                tendencies,                  and          also         of       the
probability of her having known Albertine in the
past. Often, in the hall of the casino, when two girls
were         smitten             with         mutual             desire,            a      luminous
phenomenon occurred, a sort of phosphorescent
train passing from one to the other. Let us note in
passing that it is by the aid of such materialisations,
even if they be imponderable, by these astral signs
that set fire to a whole section of the atmosphere,
that the scattered Gomorrah tends, in every town,
in every village, to reunite its separated members,
to reform the biblical city while everywhere the
same efforts are being made, be it in view of but a
momentary reconstruction, by the nostalgic, the
hypocritical, sometimes by the courageous exiles
from Sodom.


       Once I saw the stranger whom Albertine had
appeared not to recognise, just at the moment when
Bloch's cousin was approaching her. The young
woman's eyes flashed, but it was quite evident that
she did not know the Israelite maiden. She beheld


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her for the first time, felt a desire, a shadow of
doubt, by no means the same certainty as in the
case           of         Albertine,                 Albertine                 upon             whose
comradeship she must so far have reckoned that, in
the face of her coldness, she had felt the surprise of
a foreigner familiar with Paris but not resident there,
who, having returned to spend a few weeks there,
on the site of the little theatre where he was in the
habit of spending pleasant evenings, sees that they
have now built a bank.


       Bloch's cousin went and sat down at a table
where          she         turned            the        pages            of      a      magazine.
Presently the young woman came and sat down,
with an abstracted air, by her side. But under the
table one could presently see their feet wriggling,
then their legs and hands, in a confused heap.
Words followed, a conversation began, and the
young woman's innocent husband, who had been
looking everywhere for her, was astonished to find
her making plans for that very evening with a girl
whom he did not know. His wife introduced Bloch's


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cousin to him as a friend of her childhood, by an
inaudible name, for she had forgotten to ask her
what her name was. But the husband's presence
made their intimacy advance a stage farther, for
they addressed each other as tu, having known each
other at their convent, an incident at which they
laughed            heartily            later         on,        as       well        as       at       the
hoodwinked husband, with a gaiety which afforded
them an excuse for more caresses.


       As for Albertine, I cannot say that anywhere in
the casino or on the beach was her behaviour with
any girl unduly free. I found in it indeed an excess
of coldness and indifference which seemed to be
more than good breeding, to be a ruse planned to
avert suspicion. When questioned by some girl, she
had a quick, icy, decent way of replying in a very
loud voice: "Yes, I shall be going to the tennis court
about five. I shall bathe to-morrow morning about
eight," and of at once turning away from the person
to whom she had said this--all of which had a
horrible appearance of being meant to put people


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off the scent, and either to make an assignation, or,
the assignation already made in a whisper, to utter
this speech, harmless enough in itself, aloud, so as
not to attract attention. And when later on I saw her
mount           her        bicycle            and         scorch           away            into        the
distance, I could not help thinking that she was
hurrying to overtake the girl to whom she had
barely spoken.


       Only, when some handsome young woman
stepped out of a motor-car at the end of the beach,
Albertine could not help turning round. And she at
once explained: "I was looking at the new flag
they've put up over the bathing place. The old one
was pretty moth-eaten. But I really think this one is
mouldier still."


       On one occasion Albertine was not content with
cold indifference, and this made me all the more
wretched. She knew that I was annoyed by the
possibility of her sometimes meeting a friend of her
aunt, who had a 'bad style' and came now and again


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to spend a few days with Mme. Bontemps. Albertine
had pleased me by telling me that she would not
speak to her again. And when this woman came to
Incarville, Albertine said: "By the way, you know
she's here. Have they told you?" as though to shew
me that she was not seeing her in secret. One day,
when she told me this, she added: "Yes, I ran into
her on the beach, and knocked against her as I
passed, on purpose, to be rude to her." When
Albertine told me this, there came back to my mind
a remark made by Mme. Bontemps, to which I had
never given a second thought, when she had said to
Mme. Swann in my presence how brazen her niece
Albertine was, as though that were a merit, and told
her how Albertine had reminded some official's wife
that her father had been employed in a kitchen. But
a thing said by her whom we love does not long
retain its purity; it withers, it decays. An evening or
two later, I thought again of Albertine's remark, and
it was no longer the ill breeding of which she was so
proud--and which could only make me smile--that it
seemed to me to signify, it was something else, to


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wit that Albertine, perhaps even without any definite
object, to irritate this woman's senses, or wantonly
to remind her of former proposals, accepted perhaps
in the past, had swiftly brushed against her, thought
that I had perhaps heard of this as it had been done
in      public,            and          had          wished              to       forestall             an
unfavourable interpretation.


       However, the jealousy that was caused me by
the women whom Albertine perhaps loved was
abruptly to cease.




         PART II




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Chapter TWO (continued)


             The          pleasures                 of        M.         Nissim              Bernard
(continued)--Outline of the strange character of
Morel--M. de Charlus dines with the Verdurins.


         We were waiting, Albertine and I, at the Balbec
station of the little local railway. We had driven
there in the hotel omnibus, because it was raining.
Not far away from us was M. Nissim Bernard, with a
black eye. He had recently forsaken the chorister
from Athalie for the waiter at a much frequented
farmhouse in the neighbourhood, known as the
'Cherry Orchard.' This rubicund youth, with his blunt
features, appeared for all the world to have a
tomato instead of a head. A tomato exactly similar
served as head to his twin brother. To the detached
observer there is this attraction about these perfect
resemblances between pairs of twins, that nature,
becoming for the moment industrialised, seems to
be offering a pattern for sale. Unfortunately M.

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Nissim Bernard looked at it from another point of
view, and this resemblance was only external.
Tomato II shewed a frenzied zeal in furnishing the
pleasures exclusively of ladies, Tomato I did not
mind condescending to meet the wishes of certain
gentlemen. Now on each occasion when, stirred, as
though by a reflex action, by the memory of
pleasant hours spent with Tomato I, M. Bernard
presented himself at the Cherry Orchard, being
short-sighted (not that one need be short-sighted to
mistake them), the old Israelite, unconsciously
playing Amphitryon, would accost the twin brother
with: "Will you meet me somewhere this evening?"
He at once received a resounding smack in the face.
It might even be repeated in the course of a single
meal, when he continued with the second brother
the conversation he had begun with the first. In the
end this treatment so disgusted him, by association
of ideas, with tomatoes, even of the edible variety,
that whenever he heard a newcomer order that
vegetable, at the next table to his own, in the Grand
Hotel, he would murmur to him: "You must excuse


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me, Sir, for addressing you, without an introduction.
But I heard you order tomatoes. They are stale to-
day. I tell you in your own interest, for it makes no
difference to me, I never touch them myself." The
stranger would reply with effusive thanks to this
philanthropic and disinterested neighbour, call back
the waiter, pretend to have changed his mind: "No,
on second thoughts, certainly not, no tomatoes."
Aimé, who had seen it all before, would laugh to
himself,           and         think:           "He's          an       old        rascal,           that
Monsieur Bernard, he's gone and made another of
them change his order." M. Bernard, as he waited
for the already overdue tram, shewed no eagerness
to speak to Albertine and myself, because of his
black eye. We were even less eager to speak to him.
It would however have been almost inevitable if, at
that moment, a bicycle had not come dashing
towards us; the lift-boy sprang from its saddle,
breathless.                Madame                 Verdurin               had          telephoned
shortly after we left the hotel, to know whether I
would dine with her two days later; we shall see
presently why. Then, having given me the message


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in detail, the lift-boy left us, and, being one of these
democratic 'employees' who affect independence
with regard to the middle classes, and among
themselves                 restore            the         principle             of       authority,
explained: "I must be off, because of my chiefs."


       Albertine's girl friends had gone, and would be
away for some time. I was anxious to provide her
with distractions. Even supposing that she might
have         found            some           happiness                 in      spending                the
afternoons with no company but my own, at Balbec,
I knew that such happiness is never complete, and
that Albertine, being still at the age (which some of
us never outgrow) when we have not yet discovered
that this imperfection resides in the person who
receives the happiness and not in the person who
gives it, might have been tempted to put her
disappointment down to myself. I preferred that she
should impute it to circumstances which, arranged
by myself, would not give us an opportunity of being
alone together, while at the same time preventing
her from remaining in the casino and on the beach


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without me. And so I had asked her that day to
come with me to Doncières, where I was going to
meet Saint-Loup. With a similar hope of occupying
her mind, I advised her to take up painting, in which
she had had lessons in the past. While working she
would not ask herself whether she was happy or
unhappy. I would gladly have taken her also to dine
now         and         again           with          the        Verdurins                and          the
Cambremers,                    who           certainly             would            have           been
delighted to see any friend introduced by myself,
but I must first make certain that Mme. Putbus was
not yet at la Raspelière. It was only by going there
in person that I could make sure of this, and, as I
knew beforehand that on the next day but one
Albertine would be going on a visit with her aunt, I
had seized this opportunity to send Mme. Verdurin a
telegram asking her whether she would be at home
upon Wednesday. If Mme. Putbus was there, I
would manage to see her maid, ascertain whether
there was any danger of her coming to Balbec, and
if so find out when, so as to take Albertine out of
reach on the day. The little local railway, making a


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loop which did not exist at the time when I had
taken it with my grandmother, now extended to
Doncières-la-Goupil,                           a       big         station              at        which
important trains stopped, among them the express
by which I had come down to visit Saint-Loup, from
Paris, and the corresponding express by which I had
returned. And, because of the bad weather, the
omnibus from the Grand Hotel took Albertine and
myself to the station of the little tram, Balbec-Plage.


       The little train had not yet arrived, but one could
see, lazy and slow, the plume of smoke that it had
left in its wake, which, confined now to its own
power of locomotion as an almost stationary cloud,
was slowly mounting the green slope of the cliff of
Criquetot. Finally the little tram, which it had
preceded by taking a vertical course, arrived in its
turn, at a leisurely crawl. The passengers who were
waiting to board it stepped back to make way for it,
but without hurrying, knowing that they were
dealing            with          a       good-natured,                      almost             human
traveller, who, guided like the bicycle of a beginner,


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by the obliging signals of the station-master, in the
strong hands of the engine-driver, was in no danger
of running over anybody, and would come to a halt
at the proper place.


       My telegram explained the Verdurins' telephone
message and had been all the more opportune since
Wednesday (the day I had fixed happened to be a
Wednesday) was the day set apart for dinner-
parties by Mme. Verdurin, at la Raspelière, as in
Paris, a fact of which I was unaware. Mme.
Verdurin             did       not        give         'dinners,'              but        she         had
'Wednesdays.' These Wednesdays were works of
art. While fully conscious that they had not their
match anywhere, Mme. Verdurin introduced shades
of distinction between them. "Last Wednesday was
not as good as the one before," she would say. "But
I believe the next will be one of the best I have ever
given." Sometimes she went so far as to admit:
"This Wednesday was not worthy of the others. But
I have a big surprise for you next week." In the
closing weeks of the Paris season, before leaving for


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the country, the Mistress would announce the end of
the Wednesdays. It gave her an opportunity to
stimulate the faithful. "There are only three more
Wednesdays left, there are only two more," she
would say, in the same tone as though the world
were coming to an end. "You aren't going to miss
next Wednesday, for the finale." But this finale was
a sham, for she would announce: "Officially, there
will be no more Wednesdays. To-day was the last
for this year. But I shall be at home all the same on
Wednesday. We shall have a little Wednesday to
ourselves;                I       dare           say          these             little         private
Wednesdays                    will      be       the        nicest          of       all."       At       la
Raspelière,               the        Wednesdays                    were           of      necessity
restricted, and since, if they had discovered a friend
who was passing that way, they would invite him for
one or another evening, almost every day of the
week became a Wednesday. "I don't remember all
the guests, but I know there's Madame la Marquise
de Camembert," the liftboy had told me; his
memory of our discussion of the name Cambremer
had not succeeded in definitely supplanting that of


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the old world, whose syllables, familiar and full of
meaning, came to the young employee's rescue
when he was embarrassed by this difficult name,
and were immediately preferred and readopted by
him, not by any means from laziness or as an old
and ineradicable usage, but because of the need for
logic and clarity which they satisfied.


       We hastened in search of an empty carriage in
which I could hold Alber-tine in my arms throughout
the journey. Having failed to find one, we got into a
compartment in which there was already installed a
lady with a massive face, old and ugly, with a
masculine expression, very much in her Sunday
best, who was reading the Revue des Deux Mondes.
Notwithstanding her commonness, she was eclectic
in her tastes, and I found amusement in asking
myself to what social category she could belong; I
at once concluded that she must be the manager of
some large brothel, a procuress on holiday.                                                           Her
face, her manner, proclaimed the fact aloud. Only, I
had never yet supposed that such ladies read the


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Revue           des         Deux           Mondes.               Albertine              drew           my
attention to her with a wink and a smile. The lady
wore an air of extreme dignity; and as I, for my
part, bore within me the consciousness that I was
invited, two days later, to the terminal point of the
little railway, by the famous Mme. Verdurin, that at
an intermediate station I was awaited by Robert de
Saint-Loup, and that a little farther on I had it in my
power           to        give         great            pleasure              to        Mme.            de
Cambremer, by going to stay at Féterne, my eyes
sparkled with irony as I studied this self-important
lady who seemed to think that, because of her
elaborate attire, the feathers in her hat, her Revue
des Deux Mondes, she was a more considerable
personage than myself. I hoped that the lady would
not remain in the train much longer than M. Nissim
Bernard, and that she would alight at least at
Toutainville, but no. The train stopped at Evreville,
she remained seated. Similarly at Montmartin-sur-
Mer, at Parville-la-Bingard, at Incarville, so that in
despair, when the train had left Saint-Frichoux,
which was the last station before Doncières, I began


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to embrace Albertine without bothering about the
lady. At Doncières, Saint-Loup had come to meet
me at the station, with the greatest difficulty, he
told me, for, as he was staying with his aunt, my
telegram had only just reached him and he could
not, having been unable to make any arrangements
beforehand, spare me more than an hour of his
time. This hour seemed to me, alas, far too long, for
as soon as we had left the train Albertine devoted
her whole attention to Saint-Loup. She never talked
to me, barely answered me if I addressed her,
repulsed me when I approached her. With Robert,
on the other hand, she laughed her provoking
laugh, talked to him volubly, played with the dog he
had brought with him, and, as she excited the
animal, deliberately rubbed against its master. I
remembered that, on the day when Albertine had
allowed me to kiss her for the first time, I had had a
smile of gratitude for the unknown seducer who had
wrought so profound a change in her and had so far
simplified my task. I thought of him now with
horror. Robert must have noticed that I was not


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unconcerned about Albertine, for he offered no
response to her provocations, which made her
extremely annoyed with myself; then he spoke to
me as though I had been alone, which, when she
realised it, raised me again in her esteem. Robert
asked me if I would not like to meet those of his
friends with whom he used to make me dine every
evening at Doncières, when I was staying there,
who were still in the garrison. And as he himself
adopted that irritating manner which he rebuked in
others: "What is the good of your having worked so
hard to charm them if you don't want to see them
again?" I declined his offer, for I did not wish to run
any risk of being parted from Albertine, but also
because now I was detached from them. From
them, which is to say from myself. We passionately
long that there may be another life in which we shall
be similar to what we are here below. But we do not
pause to reflect that, even without waiting for that
other life, in this life, after a few years we are
unfaithful to what we have been, to what we wished
to remain immortally. Even without supposing that


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death is to alter us more completely than the
changes that occur in the course of a lifetime, if in
that other life we were to encounter the self that we
have been, we should turn away from ourselves as
from those people with whom we were once on
friendly terms but whom we have not seen for
years--such as Saint-Loup's friends whom I used so
much to enjoy meeting again every evening at the
Faisan Doré, and whose conversation would now
have seemed to me merely a boring importunity. In
this respect, and because I preferred not to go there
in search of what had pleased me there in the past,
a stroll through Doncières.                                  might have seemed to
me a préfiguration of an arrival in Paradise. We
dream much of Paradise, or rather of a number of
successive Paradises, but each of them is, long
before we die, a Paradise lost, in which we should
feel ourselves lost also.


       He left us at the station. "But you may have
about an hour to wait," he told me. "If you spend it
here, you will probably see my uncle Charlus, who is


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going by the train to Paris, ten minutes before
yours. I have said good-bye to him already, because
I have to go back before his train starts. I didn't tell
him about you, because I hadn't got your telegram."
To the reproaches which I heaped upon Albertine
when Saint-Loup had left us, she replied that she
had intended, by her coldness towards me, to
destroy any idea that he might have formed if, at
the moment when the train stopped, he had seen
me leaning against her with my arm round her
waist. He had indeed noticed this attitude (I had not
caught sight of him, otherwise I should have
adopted one that was more correct), and had had
time to murmur in my ear: "So that's how it is, one
of those priggish little girls you told me about, who
wouldn't go near Mlle. de Stermaria because they
thought her fast?" I had indeed mentioned to
Robert, and in all sincerity, when I went down from
Paris to visit him at Doncières, and when we were
talking about our time at Balbec, that there was
nothing to be had from Albertine, that she was the
embodiment of virtue. And now that I had long since


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discovered for myself that this was false, I was even
more anxious that Robert should believe it to be
true. It would have been sufficient for me to tell
Robert that I was in love with Albertine. He was one
of     those          people            who          are        capable              of      denying
themselves                 a      pleasure               to       spare            their         friend
sufferings which they would feel even more keenly if
they themselves were the victims. "Yes, she is still
rather childish. But you don't know anything against
her?" I added anxiously. "Nothing, except that I saw
you clinging together like a pair of lovers."


       "Your attitude destroyed absolutely nothing," I
told Albertine when Saint-Loup had left us. "Quite
true," she said to me, "it was stupid of me, I hurt
your feelings, I'm far more unhappy about it than
you are. You'll see, I shall never be like that again;
forgive me," she pleaded, holding out her hand with
a sorrowful air. At that moment, from the entrance
to the waiting-room in which we were sitting, I saw
advance slowly, followed at a respectful distance by
a porter loaded with his baggage, M. de Charlus.


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       In Paris, where I encountered him only in
evening dress, immobile, straitlaced in a black coat,
maintained in a vertical posture by his proud
aloofness, his thirst for admiration, the soar of his
conversation, I had never realised how far he had
aged. Now, in a light travelling suit which made him
appear stouter, as he swaggered through the room,
balancing a pursy stomach and an almost symbolical
behind, the cruel light of day broke up into paint,
upon his lips, rice-powder fixed by cold cream, on
the tip of his nose, black upon his dyed moustaches
whose ebon tint formed a contrast to his grizzled
hair, all that by artificial light had seemed the
animated colouring of a man who was still young.


       While I stood talking to him, though briefly,
because of his train, I kept my eye on Albertine's
carriage to shew her that I was coming. When I
turned my head towards M. de Charlus, he asked
nie to be so kind as to summon a soldier, a relative
of his, who was standing on the other side of the


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platform, as though he were waiting to take our
train, but in the opposite direction, away from
Balbec. "He is in his regimental band," said M. de
Charlus. "As you are so fortunate as to be still
young enough, and I unfortunately am old enough
for you to save me the trouble of going across to
him." I took it upon myself to go across to the
soldier he pointed out to me, and saw from the lyres
embroidered on his collar that he was a bandsman.
But, just as I was preparing to execute my
commission, what was my surprise, and, I may say,
my pleasure, on recognising Morel, the son of my
uncle's          valet,           who          recalled             to       me         so        many
memories. They made me forget to convey M. de
Charlus's message. "What, you are at Doncières?"
"Yes, and they've put me in the band attached to
the batteries." But he made this answer in a dry and
haughty tone. He had become an intense 'poseur,'
and evidently the sight of myself, reminding him of
his father's profession, was not pleasing to him.
Suddenly I saw M. de Charlus descending upon us.
My delay had evidently taxed his patience.                                                                "I


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should like to listen to a little music this evening,"
he said to Morel without any preliminaries, "I pay
five hundred francs for the evening, which may
perhaps be of interest to one of your friends, if you
have any in the band." Knowing as I did the
insolence of M. de Charlus, I was astonished at his
not even saying how d'ye do to his young friend.
The Baron did not however give me time to think.
Holding out his hand in the friendliest manner:
"Good-bye, my dear fellow," he said, as a hint that I
might now leave them. I had, as it happened, left
my dear Albertine too long alone. "D'you know," I
said to her as I climbed into the carriage, "life by
the sea-side and travelling make me realise that the
theatre of the world is stocked with fewer settings
than actors, and with fewer actors than situations."
"What makes you say that?" "Because M. de Charlus
asked me just now to fetch one of his friends,
whom, this instant, on the platform of this station, I
have just discovered to be one of my own." But as I
uttered these words, I began to wonder how the
Baron could have bridged the social gulf to which I


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had not given a thought. It occurred to me first of
all that it might be through Jupien, whose niece, as
the reader may remember, had seemed to shew a
preference for the violinist. What did baffle me
completely was that, when due to leave for Paris in
five minutes, the Baron should have asked for a
musical evening. But, visualising Jupien's niece
again in my memory, I was beginning to find that
'recognitions' did indeed play an important part in
life, when all of a sudden the truth flashed across
my mind and I realised that I had been absurdly
innocent. M. de Charlus had never in his life set
eyes upon Morel, nor Morel upon M. de Charlus,
who, dazzled but also terrified by a warrior, albeit
he bore no weapon but a lyre, had called upon me
in his emotion to bring him the person whom he
never suspected that I already knew. In any case,
the offer of five hundred francs must have made up
to Morel for the absence of any previous relations,
for I saw that they continued to talk, without
reflecting that they were standing close beside our
tram. As I recalled the manner in which M. de


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Charlus had come up to Morel and myself, I saw at
once the resemblance to certain of his relatives,
when they picked up a woman in the street. Only
the desired object had changed its sex. After a
certain age, and even if different evolutions are
occurring in us, the more we become ourselves, the
more our characteristic features are accentuated.
For Nature, while harmoniously contributing the
design of her tapestry, breaks the monotony of the
composition thanks to the variety of the intercepted
forms. Besides, the arrogance with which M. de
Charlus had accosted the violinist is relative, and
depends upon the point of view one adopts. It would
have been recognised by three out of four of the
men in society who nodded their heads to him, not
by the prefect of police who, a few years later, was
to keep him under observation.


       "The Paris train is signalled, Sir," said the porter
who was carrying his luggage. "But I am not going
by the train, put it in the cloakroom, damn you!"
said M. de Charlus, as he gave twenty francs to the


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porter, astonished by the change of plan and
charmed              by       the        tip.       This         generosity                at       once
attracted a flower-seller. "Buy these carnations,
look, this lovely rose, kind gentlemen, it will bring
you luck." M. de Charlus, out of patience, handed
her a couple of francs, in exchange for which the
woman gave him her blessing, and her flowers as
well. "Good God, why can't she leave us alone," said
M. de Charlus, addressing himself in an ironical and
complaining tone, as of a man distraught, to Morel,
to whom he found a certain comfort in appealing.
"We've quite enough to talk about as it is." Perhaps
the porter was not yet out of earshot, perhaps M. de
Charlus did not care to have too numerous an
audience, perhaps these incidental remarks enabled
his lofty timidity not to approach too directly the
request for an assignation. The musician, turning
with a frank, imperative and decided air to the
flower-seller, raised a hand which repulsed her and
indicated to her that they did not want her flowers
and that she was to get out of their way as quickly
as possible. M. de Charlus observed with ecstasy


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this authoritative, virile gesture, made by the
graceful hand for which it ought still to have been
too weighty, too massively brutal, with a precocious
firmness and suppleness which gave to this still
beardless adolescent the air of a young David
capable of waging war against Goliath. The Baron's
admiration was unconsciously blended with the
smile with which we observe in a child an expression
of gravity beyond his years. "This is a person whom
I should like to accompany me on my travels and
help me in my business. How he would simplify my
life," M. de Charlus said to himself.


       The train for Paris (which M. de Charlus did not
take) started. Then we took our seats in our own
train, Albertine and I, without my knowing what had
become of M. de Charlus and Morel. "We must never
quarrel any more, I beg your pardon again,"
Albertine             repeated,               alluding             to       the        Saint-Loup
incident. "We must always be nice to each other,"
she said tenderly. "As for your friend Saint-Loup, if
you think that I am the least bit interested in him,


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you are quite mistaken. All that I like about him is
that he seems so very fond of you." "He's a very
good fellow," I said, taking care not to supply
Robert with those imaginary excellences which I
should not have failed to invent, out of friendship for
himself, had I been with anybody but Albertine.
"He's an excellent creature, frank, devoted, loyal, a
person you can rely on to do anything." In saying
this I confined myself, held in check by my jealousy,
to telling the truth about Saint-Loup, but what I said
was literally true. It found expression in precisely
the same terms that Mme. de Villeparisis had
employed in speaking to me of him, when I did not
yet know him, imagined him to be so different, so
proud, and said to myself: "People think him good
because he is a great gentleman." Just as when she
had said to me: "He would be so pleased," I
imagined,              after         seeing            him         outside             the        hotel,
preparing to drive away, that his aunt's speech had
been a mere social banality, intended to natter me.
And I had realised afterwards that she had said
what she did sincerely, thinking of the things that


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interested me, of my reading, and because she
knew that that was what Saint-Loup liked, as it was
to be my turn to say sincerely to somebody who
was         writing             a       history             of        his        ancestor                La
Rochefoucauld, the author of the Maximes, who
wished to consult Robert about him: "He will be so
pleased." It was simply that I had learned to know
him. But, when I set eyes on him for the first time, I
had not supposed that an intelligence akin to my
own could be enveloped in so much outward
elegance of dress and attitude. By his feathers I had
judged him to be a bird of another species. It was
Albertine now who, perhaps a little because Saint-
Loup, in his kindness to myself, had been so cold to
her, said to me what I had already thought: "Ah! He
is as devoted as all that! I notice that people always
find all the virtues in other people, when they
belong to the Faubourg Saint-Germain." Now that
Saint-Loup belonged to the Faubourg Saint-Germain
was a thing of which I had never once thought in
the course of all these years in which, stripping
himself of his prestige, he had displayed to me his


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virtues. A change in our perspective in looking at
other people, more striking already in friendship
than in merely social relations, but how much more
striking still in love, where desire on so vast a scale
increases to such proportions the slightest signs of
coolness, that far less than the coolness Saint-Loup
had shewn me in the beginning had been enough to
make me suppose at first that Albertine scorned me,
imagine her friends to be creatures marvellously
inhuman, and ascribe merely to the indulgence that
people feel for beauty and for a certain elegance,
Elstir's judgment when he said to me of the little
band, with just the same sentiment as Mme. de
Villeparisis speaking of Saint-Loup: "They are good
girls." But this was not the opinion that I would
instinctively have formed when I heard Albertine
say: "In any case, whether he's devoted or not, I
sincerely hope I shall never see him again, since
he's made us quarrel.                                   We must never quarrel
again. It isn't nice." I felt, since she had seemed to
desire Saint-Loup, almost cured for the time being
of the idea that she cared for women, which I had


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supposed to be incurable. And, faced by Albertine's
mackintosh in which she seemed to have become
another person, the tireless vagrant of rainy days,
and which, close-fitting, malleable and grey, seemed
at that moment not so much intended to protect her
garments from the rain as to have been soaked by
her and to be clinging to my mistress's body as
though to take the imprint of her form for a
sculptor, I tore apart that tunic which jealously
espoused                a       longed-for                 bosom              and,           drawing
Albertine towards me: "But won't you, indolent
traveller, dream upon my shoulder, resting your
brow upon it?" I said, taking her head in my hands,
and shewing her the wide meadows, flooded and
silent, which extended in the gathering dusk to the
horizon closed by the parallel openings of valleys far
and blue.


       Two days later, on the famous Wednesday, in
that same little train, which I had again taken, at
Balbec, to go and dine at la Raspelière, I was taking
care not to miss Cottard at Graincourt-Saint-Vast,


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where a second telephone message from Mme.
Verdurin had told me that I should find him. He was
to join my train and would tell me where we had to
get out to pick up the carriages that would be sent
from la Raspelière to the station.                                           And so, as the
little      train          barely           stopped               for       a      moment                at
Graincourt, the first station after Doncières, I was
standing in readiness at the open window, so afraid
was I of not seeing Cottard or of his not seeing me.
Vain fears! I had not realised to what an extent the
little clan had moulded all its regular members after
the same type, so that they, being moreover in full
evening dress, as they stood waiting upon the
platform, let themselves be recognised immediately
by a certain air of assurance, fashion and familiarity,
by a look in their eyes which seemed to sweep, like
an empty space in which there was nothing to arrest
their attention, the serried ranks of the common
herd, watched for the arrival of some fellow-
member who had taken the train at an earlier
station, and sparkled in anticipation of the talk that
was to come. This sign of election, with which the


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habit of dining together had marked the members of
the little group, was not all that distinguished them;
when numerous, in full strength, they were massed
together, forming a more brilliant patch in the midst
of the troop of passengers--what Brichot called the
pecus--upon whose dull countenances could be read
no conception of what was meant by the name
Verdurin, no hope of ever dining at la Raspelière. To
be sure, these common travellers would have been
less interested than myself had anyone quoted in
their hearing--notwithstanding the notoriety that
several of them had achieved--the names of those
of the faithful whom I was astonished to see
continuing to dine out, when many of them had
already been doing so, according to the stories that
I had heard, before my birth, at a period at once so
distant and so vague that I was inclined                                                                 to
exaggerate its remoteness. The contrast between
the continuance not only of their existence, but of
the fulness of their powers, and the annihilation of
so many friends whom I had already seen, in one
place or another, pass away, gave me the same


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sentiment that we feel when in the stop-press
column of the newspapers we                                                 read         the        very
announcement that we least expected, for instance
that of an untimely death, which seems to us
fortuitous because the causes that have led up to it
have remained outside our knowledge. This is the
feeling that death does not descend upon all men
alike, but that a more oncoming wave of its tragic
tide carries off a life placed at the same level as
others which the waves that follow will long continue
to spare. We shall see later on that the diversity of
the forms of death that circulate invisibly is the
cause of the peculiar unexpectedness presented, in
the newspapers, by their obituary notices. Then I
saw that, with the passage of time, not only do the
real       talents           that         may           coexist            with         the        most
commonplace                     conversation                    reveal            and          impose
themselves, but furthermore that mediocre persons
arrive at those exalted positions, attached in the
imagination of our childhood to certain famous
elders, when it never occurred to us that, after a
certain number of years, their disciples, become


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masters, would be famous also, and would inspire
the respect and awe that once they felt. But if the
names of the faithful were unknown to the pecus,
their aspect still singled them out in its eyes. Indeed
in the train (when the coincidence of what one or
another of them might have been doing during the
day, assembled them all together), having to collect
at a subsequent station only an isolated member,
the carriage in which they were gathered, ticketed
with the elbow of the sculptor Ski, flagged with
Cottard's Temps, stood out in the distance like a
special saloon, and rallied at the appointed station
the tardy comrade.                               The only one who might,
because of his semi-blindness, have missed these
welcoming signals, was Brichot. But one of the party
would always volunteer to keep a look-out for the
blind man, and, as soon as his straw hat, his green
umbrella and blue spectacles caught the eye, he
would be gently but hastily guided towards the
chosen compartment. So that it was inconceivable
that one of the faithful, without exciting the gravest
suspicions of his being 'on the loose,' or even of his


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not having come 'by the train,' should not pick up
the others in the course of the journey. Sometimes
the opposite process occurred: one of the faithful
had been obliged to go some distance down the line
during            the          afternoon                 and          was            obliged              in
consequence to make part of the journey alone
before being joined by the group; but even when
thus isolated, alone of his kind, he did not fail as a
rule to produce a certain effect. The Future towards
which he was travelling marked him out to the
person on the seat opposite, who would say to
himself: "That must be somebody," would discern,
round the soft hat of Cottard or of the sculptor Ski,
a vague aureole and would be only half-astonished
when at the next station an elegant crowd, if it were
their terminal point, greeted the faithful one at the
carriage door and escorted him to one of the waiting
carriages, all of them reverently saluted by the
factotum of Douville station, or, if it were an
intermediate station, invaded the compartment. This
was what was done, and with precipitation, for some
of them had arrived late, just as the train which was


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already in the station was about to start, by the
troop which Cottard led at a run towards the
carriage in the window of which he had seen me
signalling. Brichot, who was among these faithful,
had become more faithful than ever in the course of
these years which had diminished the assiduity of
others. As his sight became steadily weaker, he had
been obliged, even in Paris, to reduce more and
more his working hours after dark. Besides he was
out of sympathy with the modern Sorbonne, where
ideas of scientific exactitude, after the German
model, were beginning to prevail over humanism.
He now confined himself exclusively to his lectures
and to his duties as an examiner; and so had a
great deal more time to devote to social pursuits.
That is to say, to evenings at the Verdurins', or to
those parties that now and again were offered to the
Verdurins by one of the faithful, tremulous with
emotion. It is true that on two occasions love had
almost succeeded in achieving what his work could
no longer do, in detaching Brichot from the little
clan. But Mme. Verdurin, who kept her eyes open,


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and moreover, having acquired the habit in the
interests            of      her        salon,            had        come            to       take         a
disinterested pleasure in this sort of drama and
execution,                had         immediately                    brought              about            a
coolness between him and the dangerous person,
being skilled in (as she expressed it) 'putting things
in order' and 'applying the red hot iron to the
wound.' This she had found all the more easy in the
case of one of the dangerous persons, who was
simply Brichot's laundress, and Mme. Verdurin,
having the right of entry into the Professor's fifth
floor rooms, crimson with rage, when she deigned to
climb his stairs, had only had to shut the door in the
wretched woman's face. "What!" the Mistress had
said to Brichot, "a woman like myself does you the
honour of calling upon you, and you receive a
creature like that?" Brichot had never forgotten the
service that Mme. Verdurin had rendered him by
preventing his old age from foundering in the mire,
and became more and more strongly attached to
her, whereas, in contrast to this revival of affection
and       possibly             because               of      it,     the        Mistress             was


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beginning to be tired of a too docile follower, and of
an      obedience                of       which           she         could           be       certain
beforehand.                 But Brichot derived from his intimacy
with the Verdurins a distinction which set him apart
from all his colleagues at the Sorbonne. They were
dazzled by the accounts that he gave them of
dinner-parties to which they would never be invited,
by the mention made of him in the reviews, the
exhibition of his portrait in the Salon, by some
writer         or       painter            of      repute            whose            talent           the
occupants of the other chairs in the Faculty of Arts
esteemed, but without any prospect of attracting his
attention, not to mention the elegance of the
mundane philosopher's attire, an elegance which
they had mistaken at first for slackness until their
colleague kindly explained to them that a tall hat is
naturally laid on the floor, when one is paying a call,
and is not the right thing for dinners in the country,
however smart, where it should be replaced by a
soft hat, which goes quite well with a dinner-jacket.
For the first few moments after the little group had
plunged into the carriage, I could not even speak to


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Cottard, for he was suffocated, not so much by
having run in order not to miss the train as by his
astonishment at having caught it so exactly. He felt
more than the joy inherent in success, almost the
hilarity of an excellent joke. "Ah! That was a good
one!" he said when he had recovered himself. "A
minute later!                  'Pon my soul, that's what they call
arriving in the nick of time!" he added, with a wink
intended not so much to inquire whether the
expression were apt, for he was now overflowing
with assurance, but to express his satisfaction.                                                         At
length he was able to introduce me to the other
members of the little clan. I was annoyed to see
that they were almost all in the dress which in Paris
is called smoking. I had forgotten that the Verdurins
were           beginning                  a       timid            evolution                 towards
fashionable ways, retarded by the Dreyfus case,
accelerated by the 'new' music, an evolution which
for that matter they denied, and continued to deny
until it was complete, like those military objectives
which a general does not announce until he has
reached them, so as not to appear defeated if he


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fails. In addition to which, Society was quite
prepared to go half way to meet them. It went so
far as to regard them as people to whose house
nobody in Society went but who were not in the
least perturbed by the fact. The Verdurin salon was
understood to be a Temple of Music. It was there,
people           assured              you,          that         Vinteuil            had          found
inspiration, encouragement. Now, even if Vinteuil's
sonata remained wholly unappreciated, and almost
unknown, his name, quoted as that of the greatest
of modern composers, had an extraordinary effect.
Moreover, certain young men of the Faubourg
having           decided             that         they          ought           to       be        more
intellectual than the middle classes, there were
three of them who had studied music, and among
these Vinteuil's sonata enjoyed an enormous vogue.
They would speak of it, on returning to their homes,
to the intelligent mothers who had incited them to
acquire culture. And, taking an interest in what
interested their sons, at a concert these mothers
would gaze with a certain respect at Mme. Verdurin
in her front box, following the music in the printed


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score. So far, this social success latent in the
Verdurins was revealed by two facts only. In the
first      place,           Mme.            Verdurin              would            say        of       the
Principessa di Caprarola: "Ah! She is intelligent, she
is a charming woman. What I cannot endure, are
the imbeciles, the people who bore me, they drive
me mad." Which would have made anybody at all
perspicacious                   realise            that          the         Principessa                  di
Caprarola, a woman who moved in the highest
society, had called upon Mme. Verdurin. She had
even mentioned her name in the course of a visit of
condolence which she had paid to Mme. Swann after
the death of her husband, and had asked whether
she knew them. "What name did you say?" Odette
had asked, with a sudden wistfulness. "Verdurin?
Oh, yes, of course," she had continued in a plaintive
tone, "I don't know them, or rather, I know them
without really knowing them, they are people I used
to meet at people's houses, years ago, they are
quite nice." When the Principessa di Caprarola had
gone, Odette would fain have spoken the bare truth.
But the immediate falsehood was not the fruit of her


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calculations, but the revelation of her fears, of her
desires. She denied not what it would have been
adroit to deny, but what she would have liked not to
have happened, even if the other person was bound
to hear an hour later that it was a fact. A little later
she had recovered her assurance, and would indeed
anticipate questions by saying, so as not to appear
to be afraid of them: "Mme. Verdurin, why, I used
to know her terribly well!" with an affectation of
humility, like a great lady who tells you that she has
taken the tram. "There has been a great deal of talk
about the Verdurins lately," said Mme. de Souvré.
Odette, with the smiling disdain of a Duchess,
replied: "Yes, I do seem to have heard a lot about
them lately. Every now and then there are new
people who arrive like that in society," without
reflecting that she herself was among the newest.
"The Principessa di Caprarola has dined there,"
Mme. de Souvré went on. "Ah!" replied Odette,
accentuating her smile, "that does not surprise me.
That sort of thing always begins with the Principessa
di Caprarola, and then some one else follows suit,


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like       Comtesse                 Mole."           Odette,              in      saying            this,
appeared to be filled with a profound contempt for
the two great ladies who made a habit of 'house-
warming' in recently established drawing-rooms.
One felt from her tone that the implication was that
she, Odette, was, like Mme. de Souvré, not the sort
of person to let herself in for that sort of thing.


       After the admission that Mme. Verdurin had
made of the Principessa di Caprarola's intelligence,
the second indication that the Verdurins were
conscious of their future destiny was that (without,
of course, their having formally requested it) they
became most anxious that people should now come
to dine with them in evening dress. M. Verdurin
could now have been greeted without shame by his
nephew, the one who was 'in the cart.' Among those
who         entered              my         carriage              at       Graincourt                was
Saniette, who long ago had been expelled from the
Verdurins' by his cousin Forcheville, but had since
returned. His faults, from the social point of view,
had originally been--notwithstanding his superior


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qualities--something like Cottard's, shyness, anxiety
to please, fruitless attempts to succeed in doing so.
But if the course of life, by making Cottard assume,
if not at the Verdurins', where he had, because of
the influence that past associations exert over us
when we find ourselves in familiar surroundings,
remained more or less the same, at least in his
practice, in his hospital ward, at the Academy of
Medicine, a shell of coldness, disdain, gravity, that
became more accentuated while he rewarded his
appreciative students with puns, had made a clean
cut between the old Cottard and the new, the same
defects had on the contrary become exaggerated in
Saniette, the more he sought to correct them.
Conscious that he was frequently boring, that
people did not listen to him, instead of then
slackening his pace as Cottard would have done, of
forcing their attention by an air of authority, not
only did he try by adopting a humorous tone to
make them forgive the unduly serious turn of his
conversation, he increased his pace, cleared the
ground, used abbreviations in order to appear less


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long-winded, more familiar with the matters of
which he spoke, and succeeded only, by making
them unintelligible, in seeming interminable. His
self-assurance was not like that of Cottard, freezing
his patients, who, when other people praised his
social graces, would reply: "He is a different man
when he receives you in his consulting room, you
with your face to the light, and he with his back to
it, and those piercing eyes." It failed to create an
effect, one felt that it was cloaking an excessive
shyness, that the merest trifle would be enough to
dispel it.            Saniette, whose friends had always told
him that he was wanting in self-confidence, and who
had indeed seen men whom he rightly considered
greatly inferior to himself, attain with ease to the
success that was denied to him, never began telling
a story without smiling at its drollery, fearing lest a
serious air might make his hearers underestimate
the value of his wares. Sometimes, giving him credit
for the comic element which he himself appeared to
find in what he was about to say, people would do
him the honour of a general silence. But the story


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would fall flat. A fellow-guest who was endowed
with a kind heart would sometimes convey to
Saniette the private, almost secret encouragement
of a smile of approbation, making it reach him
furtively, without attracting attention, as one passes
a note from hand to hand. But nobody went so far
as to assume the responsibility, to risk the glaring
publicity of an honest laugh. Long after the story
was ended and had fallen flat, Saniette, crestfallen,
would remain smiling to himself, as though relishing
in it and for himself the delectation which he
pretended to find adequate and which the others
had not felt. As for the sculptor Ski, so styled on
account of the difficulty they found in pronouncing
his Polish surname, and because he himself made
an affectation, since he had begun to move in a
certain social sphere, of not wishing to be confused
with certain relatives, perfectly respectable but
slightly boring and very numerous, he had, at forty-
four and with no pretension to good looks, a sort of
boyishness, a dreamy wistfulness which was the
result of his having been, until the age of ten, the


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most charming prodigal imaginable, the darling of
all the ladies. Mme. Verdurin maintained that he
was more of an artist than Elstir. Any resemblance
that there may have been between them was,
however, purely external. It was enough to make
Elstir, who had met Ski once, feel for him the
profound repulsion that is inspired in us less by the
people who are our exact opposite than by those
who résemble us in what is least good, in whom are
displayed our worst qualities, the faults of which we
have cured ourselves, who irritate by reminding us
of how we may have appeared to certain other
people before we became what we now are. But
Mme.           Verdurin               thought               that          Ski         had          more
temperament than Elstir because there was no art in
which he had not a facility of expression, and she
was convinced that he would have developed that
facility into talent if he had not been so lazy. This
seemed to the Mistress to be actually an additional
gift, being the opposite of hard work which she
regarded as the lot of people devoid of genius. Ski
would paint anything you asked, on cuff-links or on


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the panels over doors. He sang with the voice of a
composer, played from memory, giving the piano
the effect of an orchestra, less by his virtuosity than
by his vamped basses, which suggested the inability
of the fingers to indicate that at a certain point the
cornet entered, which, for that matter, he would
imitate with his lips. Choosing his words when he
spoke so as to convey an odd impression, just as he
would pause before banging out a chord to say
'Ping!' so as to let the brasses be heard, he was
regarded as marvellously intelligent, but as a matter
of fact his ideas could be boiled down to two or
three, extremely limited. Bored with his reputation
for whimsicality, he had set himself to shew that he
was a practical, matter-of-fact person, whence a
triumphant affectation of false precision, of false
common               sense,           aggravated                  by        his       having            no
memory and a fund of information that was always
inaccurate. The movements of his head, neck,
limbs, would have been graceful if he had been still
nine years old, with golden curls, a wide lace collar
and little boots of red leather. Having reached


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Graincourt station with Cottard and Brichot, with
time to spare, he and Cottard had left Brichot in the
waiting-room and had gone for a stroll. When
Cottard proposed to turn back, Ski had replied: "But
there is no hurry. It isn't the local train to-day, it's
the departmental train." Delighted by the effect that
this refinement of accuracy produced upon Cottard,
he added, with reference to himself: "Yes, because
Ski loves the arts, because he models in clay,
people think he's not practical. Nobody knows this
line better than I do." Nevertheless they had turned
back towards the station when, all of a sudden,
catching sight of the smoke of the approaching
train, Cottard, with a wild shout, had exclaimed:
"We shall have to put our best foot foremost." They
did as a matter of fact arrive with not a moment to
spare,            the           distinction                  between                 local            and
departmental trains having never existed save in
the mind of Ski. "But isn't the Princess on the
train?" came in ringing tones from Brichot, whose
huge spectacles, resplendent as the reflectors that
laryngologists attach to their foreheads to throw a


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light into the throats of their patients, seemed to
have taken their life from the Professor's eyes, and
possibly because of the effort that he was making to
adjust his sight to them, seemed themselves, even
at the most trivial moments, to be gazing at
themselves with a sustained attention and an
extraordinary fixity. Brichot's malady, as it gradually
deprived him of his sight, had revealed to him the
beauties of that sense, just as, frequently, we have
to have made up our minds to part with some
object, to make a present of it for instance, before
we can study it, regret it, admire it. "No, no, the
Princess went over to Maineville with some of Mme.
Verdurin's guests who were taking the Paris train. It
is within the bounds of possibility that Mme.
Verdurin, who had some business at Saint-Mars,
may be with her! In that case, she will be coming
with us, and we shall all travel together, which will
be delightful. We shall have to keep our eyes
skinned at Maineville and see what we shall see! Oh,
but that's nothing, you may say that we came very
near to missing the bus. When I saw the train I was


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dumbfoundered. That's what is called arriving at the
psychological moment. Can't you picture us missing
the train, Mme. Verdurin seeing the carriages come
back without us: Tableau!" added the doctor, who
had not yet recovered from his emotion. "That
would be a pretty good joke, wouldn't it? Now then,
Brichot, what have you to say about our little
escapade?" inquired the doctor with a note of pride.
"Upon my soul," replied Brichot, "why, yes, if you
had found the train gone, that would have been
what the late Villemain used to call a wipe in the
eye!" But I, distracted at first by these people who
were strangers to me, was suddenly reminded of
what Cottard had said to me in the ball-room of the
little casino, and, just as though there were an
invisible link uniting an organ to our visual memory,
the vision of Albertine leaning her breasts against
Andrée's caused my heart a terrible pain. This pain
did not last: the idea of Albertine's having relations
with women seemed no longer possible since the
occasion,              forty-eight                hours            earlier,            when            the
advances that my mistress had made to Saint-Loup


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had excited in me a fresh jealousy which had made
me forget the old. I was simple enough to suppose
that one taste of necessity excludes another. At
Harambouville, as the tram was full, a farmer in a
blue blouse who had only a third class ticket got into
our compartment. The doctor, feeling that the
Princess must not be allowed to travel with such a
person, called a porter, shewed his card, describing
him as medical officer to one of the big railway
companies, and obliged the station-master to make
the farmer get out. This incident so pained and
alarmed Saniette's timid spirit that, as soon as he
saw it beginning, fearing already lest, in view of the
crowd of peasants on the platform, it should assume
the proportions of a rising, he pretended to be
suffering from a stomach-ache, and, so that he
might          not        be        accused              of       any         share           in       the
responsibility for the doctor's violence, wandered
down the corridor, pretending to be looking for what
Cottard called the 'water.' Failing to find one, he
stood and gazed at the scenery from the other end
of the 'twister.' "If this is your first appearance at


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Mme. Verdurin's, Sir," I was addressed by Brichot,
anxious to shew off his talents before a newcomer,
"you will find that there is no place where one feels
more the 'amenities of life,' to quote one of the
inventors of dilettantism, of pococurantism, of all
sorts of words in -ism that are in fashion among our
little      snobbesses,                   I     refer         to      M.        le     Prince           de
Talleyrand." For, when he spoke of these great
noblemen of the past, he thought it clever and 'in
the period' to prefix a 'M.' to their titles, and said 'M.
le Duc de La Rochefoucauld,' 'M. le Cardinal de
Retz,' referring to these also as 'That struggle-for-
lifer de Gondi,' 'that Boulangist de Marcillac.' And he
never failed to call Montesquieu, with a smile, when
he referred to him: "Monsieur le Président Secondât
de Montesquieu." An intelligent man of the world
would have been irritated by a pedantry which
reeked so of the lecture-room.                                        But in the perfect
manners of the man of the world when speaking of
a Prince, there is a pedantry also, which betrays a
different caste, that in which one prefixes 'the
Emperor' to the name 'William' and addresses a


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Royal Highness in the third person. "Ah, now that is
a     man,"            Brichot             continued,                 still       referring              to
'Monsieur le Prince de Talleyrand'--"to whom we
take off our hats. He is an ancestor." "It is a
charming house," Cottard told me, "you will find a
little of everything, for Mme. Verdurin is not
exclusive, great scholars like Brichot, the high
nobility, such as the Princess Sherbatoff, a great
Russian            lady, a              friend          of      the        Grand            Duchess
Eudoxie, who even sees her alone at hours when no
one else is admitted." As a matter of fact the Grand
Duchess Eudoxie, not wishing Princess Sherbatoff,
who for years past had been cut by everyone, to
come to her house when there might be other
people, allowed her to come only in the early
morning, when Her Imperial Highness was not at
home to any of those friends to whom it would have
been as unpleasant to meet the Princess as it would
have been awkward for the Princess to meet them.
As, for the last three years, as soon as she came
away, like a manicurist, from the Grand Duchess,
Mme. Sherbatoff would go on to Mme. Verdurin,


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who had just awoken, and stuck to her for the rest
of the day, one might say that the Princess's loyalty
surpassed even that of Brichot, constant as he was
at those Wednesdays, both in Paris, where he had
the       pleasure               of       fancying               himself             a      sort          of
Chateaubriand at l'Abbaye-aux-Bois, and in the
country,            where             he      saw          himself            becoming                 the
equivalent of what might have been in the salon of
Mme. de Châtelet the man whom he always named
(with an erudite sarcasm and satisfaction): "M. de
Voltaire."


       Her        want           of      friends            had         enabled             Princess
Sherbatoff to shew for some years past to the
Verdurins a fidelity which made her more than an
ordinary member of the 'faithful,' the type of
faithfulness, the ideal which Mme. Verdurin had long
thought unattainable and which now, in her later
years, she at length found incarnate in this new
feminine recruit. However keenly the Mistress might
feel the pangs of jealousy, it was without precedent
that the most assiduous of her faithful should not


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have 'failed' her at least once. The most stay-at-
home yielded to the temptation to travel; the most
continent fell from virtue; the most robust might
catch influenza, the idlest be caught for his month's
soldiering, the most indifferent go to close the eyes
of a dying mother. And it was in vain that Mme.
Verdurin told them then, like the Roman Empress,
that she was the sole general whom her legion must
obey, like the Christ or the Kaiser that he who loved
his father or mother more than her and was not
prepared to leave them and follow her was not
worthy of her, that instead of slacking in bed or
letting themselves be made fools of by bad women
they would do better to remain in her company, by
her, their sole remedy and sole delight. But destiny
which is sometimes pleased to brighten the closing
years of a life that has passed the mortal span had
made Mme. Verdurin meet the Princess Sherbatoff.
Out of touch with her family, an exile from her
native land, knowing nobody but the Baroness
Putbus and the Grand Duchess Eudoxie, to whose
houses, because she herself had no desire to meet


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the friends of the former, and the latter no desire
that her friends should meet the Princess, she went
only       in      the        early          morning               hours           when           Mme.
Verdurin was still asleep, never once, so far as she
could remember, having been confined to her room
since she was twelve years old, when she had had
the measles, having on the 3lst of December replied
to Mme. Verdurin who, afraid of being left alone,
had asked her whether she would not 'shake down'
there for the night, in spite of its being New Year's
Eve: "Why, what is there to prevent me, any day of
the year? Besides, to-morrow is a day when one
stays at home, and this is my home," living in a
boarding-house, and moving from it whenever the
Verdurins moved, accompanying them upon their
holidays, the Princess had so completely exemplified
to Mme. Verdurin the line of Vigny:


           Thou only didst appear that which one seeks
always,


       that the Lady President of the little circle,


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anxious to make sure of one of her 'faithful' even
after death, had made her promise that whichever
of them survived the other should be buried by her
side. Before strangers--among whom                                                       we        must
always reckon him to whom we lie most barefacedly
because he is the person whose scorn we should
most dread: ourself--Princess Sherbatoff took care
to represent her only three friendships--with the
Grand Duchess, the Verdurins, and the Baroness
Putbus--as the only ones, not which cataclysms
beyond her control had allowed to emerge from the
destruction of all the rest, but which a free choice
had made her elect in preference to any other, and
to which a certain love of solitude and simplicity had
made her confine herself. "I see nobody else," she
would say, insisting upon the inflexible character of
what appeared to be rather a rule that one imposes
upon oneself than a necessity to which one submits.
She would add: "I visit only three houses," as a
dramatist who fears that it may not run to a fourth
announces                  that           there            will         be         only            three
performances of his play. Whether or not M. and


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Mme. Verdurin believed in the truth of this fiction,
they had helped the Princess to instil it into the
minds of the faithful. And they in turn were
persuaded               both that                  the       Princess,              among              the
thousands of invitations that were offered her, had
chosen the Verdurins alone, and that the Verdurins,
courted in vain by all the higher aristocracy, had
consented to make but a single exception, in favour
of the Princess.


       In their eyes, the Princess, too far superior to
her native element not to find it boring, among all
the people whose society she might have enjoyed,
found the Verdurins alone entertaining, while they,
in return, deaf to the overtures with which they
were bombarded by the entire aristocracy, had
consented to make but a single exception, in favour
of a great lady of more intelligence than the rest of
her kind, the Princess Sherbatoff.


       The Princess was very rich; she engaged for
every first night a large box, to which, with the


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assent of Mme. Verdurin, she invited the faithful and
nobody else. People would point to this pale and
enigmatic person who had grown old without turning
white, turning red rather like certain sere and
shrivelled hedgerow fruits. They admired both her
influence and her humility, for, having always with
her an Academician, Brichot, a famous scientist,
Cottard, the leading pianist of the day, at a later
date M. de Charlus, she nevertheless made a point
of securing the least prominent box in the theatre,
remained in the background, paid no attention to
the rest of the house, lived exclusively for the little
group,           who,           shortly            before            the         end          of       the
performance, would withdraw in the wake of this
strange sovereign, who was not without a certain
timid, fascinating, faded beauty.                                                But if Mme.
Sherbatoff did not look at the audience, remained in
shadow, it was to try to forget that there existed a
living world which she passionately desired and was
unable to know: the coterie in a box was to her
what is to certain animals their almost corpselike
immobility in the presence of danger. Nevertheless


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the thirst for novelty and for the curious which
possesses people in society made them pay even
more attention perhaps to this mysterious stranger
than to the celebrities in the front boxes to whom
everybody paid a visit. They imagined that she must
be different from the people whom they knew, that
a marvellous intellect combined with a discerning
bounty retained round about her that little circle of
eminent men. The Princess was compelled, if you
spoke to her about anyone, or introduced anyone to
her, to feign an intense coldness, in order to keep
up the fiction of her horror of society. Nevertheless,
with the support of Cottard or Mme. Verdurin,
several           newcomers                    succeeded                  in      making               her
acquaintance and such was her excitement at
making a fresh acquaintance that she forgot the
fable of her deliberate isolation, and went to the
wildest extremes to please the newcomer. If he was
entirely unimportant, the rest would be astonished.
"How strange that the Princess, who refuses to
know anyone, should make an exception of such an
uninteresting                    person."                 But           these             fertilising


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acquaintances were rare, and the Princess lived
narrowly confined in the midst of the faithful.


       Cottard said far more often: "I shall see him on
Wednesday at the Verdurins'," than: "I shall see him
on Tuesday at the Academy." He spoke, too, of the
Wednesdays as of an engagement equally important
and inevitable.                       But Cottard was one of those
people, little sought after, who make it as imperious
a duty to respond to an invitation as if such
invitations were orders, like a military or judicial
summons. It required a call from a very important
patient to make him "fail" the Verdurins on a
Wednesday, the importance depending moreover
rather upon the rank of the patient than upon the
gravity of his complaint. For Cottard, excellent
fellow as he was, would forego the delights of a
Wednesday not for a workman who had had a
stroke, but for a Minister's cold. Even then he would
say to his wife: "Make my apologies to Mme.
Verdurin. Tell her that I shall be coming later on. His
Excellency might really have chosen some other day


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to catch cold." One Wednesday their old cook having
opened a vein in her arm, Cottard, already in his
dinner-jacket to go to the Verdurins', had shrugged
his shoulders when his wife had timidly inquired
whether he could not bandage the cut: "Of course I
can't, Léontine," he had groaned; "can't you see I've
got my white waistcoat on?" So as not to annoy her
husband, Mme. Cottard had sent post haste for his
chief dresser. He, to save time, had taken a cab,
with the result that, his carriage entering the
courtyard just as Cottard's was emerging to take
him to the Verdurins', five minutes had been wasted
in backing to let one another pass. Mme. Cottard
was worried that the dresser should see his master
in evening dress. Cottard sat cursing the delay, from
remorse perhaps, and started off in a villainous
temper which it took all the Wednesday's pleasures
to dispel.


       If one of Cottard's patients were to ask him: "Do
you ever see the Guermantes?" it was with the
utmost sincerity that the Professor would reply:


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"Perhaps not actually the Guermantes, I can't be
certain. But I meet all those people at the house of
some friends of mine. You must, of course, have
heard of the Verdurins. They know everybody.
Besides, they certainly are not people who've come
down in the world. They've got the goods, all right.
It is generally estimated that Mme. Verdurin is
worth thirty-five million. Gad, thirty-five million,
that's a pretty figure. And so she doesn't make two
bites at a cherry. You mentioned the Duchesse de
Guermantes. Let me explain the difference. Mme.
Verdurin             is      a       great           lady,          the         Duchesse                de
Guermantes is probably a nobody. You see the
distinction, of course. In any case, whether the
Guermantes go to Mme. Verdurin's or not, she
entertains                all        the          very            best           people,               the
d'Sherbatôffs, the d'Forchevilles, e tutti quanti,
people of the highest flight, all the nobility of France
and        Navarre,              with         whom             you         would            see        me
conversing as man to man. Of course, those sort of
people are only too glad to meet the princes of
science," he added, with a smile of fatuous conceit,


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brought to his lips by his proud satisfaction not so
much that the expression formerly reserved for men
like Potain and Charcot should now be applicable to
himself, as that he knew at last how to employ all
these expressions that were authorised by custom,
and, after a long course of study, had learned them
by heart. And so, after mentioning to me Princess
Sherbatoff as one of the people who went to Mme.
Verdurin's, Cottard added with a wink: "That gives
you an idea of the style of the house, if you see
what I mean?" He meant that it was the very height
of fashion. Now, to entertain a Russian lady who
knew nobody but the Grand Duchess Eudoxie was
not fashionable at all. But Princess Sherbatoff might
not have known even her, it would in no way have
diminished                Cottard's              estimate               of      the        supreme
elegance of the Verdurin salon or his joy at being
invited there. The splendour that seems to us to
invest the people whose houses we visit is no more
intrinsic than that of kings and queens on the stage,
in dressing whom it is useless for a producer to
spend           hundreds                and          thousands                 of       francs            in


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purchasing authentic costumes and real jewels,
when a great designer will procure a far more
sumptuous impression by focussing a ray of light on
a doublet of coarse cloth studded with lumps of
glass and on a cloak of paper.                                         A man may have
spent his life among the great ones of the earth,
who to him have been merely boring relatives or
tiresome              acquaintances,                      because                a       familiarity
engendered in the cradle had stripped them of all
distinction in his eyes. The same man, on the other
hand, need only have been led by some chance to
mix with the most obscure people, for innumerable
Cottards to be permanently dazzled by the ladies of
title whose drawing-rooms they imagined as the
centres of aristocratic elegance, ladies who were not
even what Mme. de Villeparisis and her friends were
(great ladies fallen from their greatness, whom the
aristocracy that had been brought up with them no
longer visited); no, those whose friendship has been
the pride of so many men, if these men were to
publish their memoirs and to give the names of
those women and of the other women who came to


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their parties, Mme. de Cambremer would be no
more able than Mme. de Guermantes to identify
them. But what of that! A Cottard has thus his
Marquise, who is to him "the Baronne," as in
Marivaux,              the        Baronne               whose             name            is      never
mentioned, so much so that nobody supposes that
she ever had a name. Cottard is all the more
convinced that she embodies the aristocracy--which
has never heard of the lady--in that, the more
dubious titles are, the more prominently coronets
are displayed upon wineglasses, silver, notepaper,
luggage. Many Cottards who have supposed that
they were living in the heart of the Faubourg Saint-
Germain have had their imagination perhaps more
enchanted by feudal dreams than the men who did
really live among Princes, just as with the small
shopkeeper who, on Sundays, goes sometimes to
look at "old time" buildings, it is sometimes from
those buildings every stone of which is of our own
time, the vaults of which have been, by the pupils of
Viollet-le-Duc,                  painted            blue         and         sprinkled               with
golden           stars,           that         they          derive           the         strongest


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sensation of the middle ages. "The Princess will be
at Maineville. She will be coming with us. But I shall
not introduce you to her at once. It will be better to
leave that to Mme. Verdurin. Unless I find a
loophole. Then you can rely on me to take the bull
by the horns." "What were you saying?" asked
Saniette, as he rejoined us, pretending to have gone
out       to      take         the        air.       "I      was         quoting              to      this
gentleman," said Brichot, "a saying, which you will
remember, of the man who, to my mind, is the first
of the fins-de-siècle (of the eighteenth century, that
is), by name Charles Maurice, Abbé de Perigord. He
began by promising to be an excellent journalist.
But he made a bad end, by which I mean that he
became a Minister! Life has these tragedies. A far
from serapulous politician to boot who, with the
lofty contempt of a thoroughbred nobleman, did not
hesitate to work in his time for the King of Prussia,
there are no two ways about it, and died in the skin
of a 'Left Centre.'"




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       At Saint-Pierre-des-Ifs we were joined by a
glorious girl who, unfortunately, was not one of the
little group. I could not tear my eyes from her
magnolia              skin,         her         dark          eyes,           her       bold          and
admirable outlines. A moment later she wanted to
open a window, for it was hot in the compartment,
and not wishing to ask leave of everybody, as I
alone was without a greatcoat, she said to me in a
quick, cool, jocular voice: "Do you mind a little fresh
air, Sir?" I would have liked to say to her: "Come
with us to the Verdurins'?" or "Give me your name
and address." I answered: "No, fresh air doesn't
bother me,                  Mademoiselle." Whereupon,                                         without
stirring from her seat: "Do your friends object to
smoke?" and she lit a cigarette. At the third station
she sprang from the carriage. Next day, I inquired
of Albertine, who could she be. For, stupidly thinking
that people could have but one sort of love, in my
jealousy of Albertine's attitude towards Robert, I
was        reassured                so       far       as       other           women              were
concerned.                Albertine              told        me,          I     believe            quite


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sincerely, that she did not know. "I should so much
like to see her again," I exclaimed. "Don't worry,
one always sees people again," replied Albertine. In
this particular instance, she was wrong; I never saw
again, nor did I ever identify, the pretty girl with the
cigarette. We shall see, moreover, why, for a long
time, I ceased to look for her. But I have not
forgotten her. I find myself at times, when I think of
her, seized by a wild longing. But these recurrences
of desire oblige us to reflect that if we wish to
rediscover these girls with the same pleasure we
must also return to the year which has since been
followed by ten others in the course of which her
bloom has faded. We can sometimes find a person
again, but we cannot abolish time. And so on until
the unforeseen day, gloomy as a winter night, when
we no longer seek for that girl, or for any other,
when to find her would actually frighten us. For we
no longer feel that we have sufficient attraction to
appeal to her, or strength to love her. Not, of
course, that we are, in the strict sense of the word,
impotent. And as for loving, we should love her


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more than ever. But we feel that it is too big an
undertaking for the little strength that we have left.
Eternal rest has already fixed intervals which we can
neither cross nor make our voice be heard across
them. To set our foot on the right step is an
achievement like not missing the perilous leap. To
be seen in such a state by a girl we love, even if we
have kept the features and all the golden locks of
our youth! We can no longer undertake the strain of
keeping pace with youth. All the worse if our carnal
desire increases instead of failing! We procure for it
a woman whom we need make no effort to attract,
who will share our couch for one night only and
whom we shall never see again.


       "Still no news, I suppose, of the violinist," said
Cottard. The event of the day in the little clan was,
in fact, the failure of Mme. Verdurin's favourite
violinist.           Employed                   on        military              service             near
Doncières, he came three times a week to dine at la
Raspelière, having a midnight pass. But two days
ago, for the first time, the faithful had been unable


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to discover him on the tram. It was supposed that
he had missed it. But albeit Mme.                                                Verdurin had
sent to meet the next tram, and so on until the last
had arrived, the carriage had returned empty. "He's
certain to have been shoved into the guard-room,
there's no other explanation of his desertion. Gad!
In soldiering, you know, with those fellows, it only
needs a bad-tempered serjeant." "It will be all the
more mortifying for Mme. Verdurin," said Brichot, "if
he fails again this evening, because our kind hostess
has       invited            to      dinner            for       the        first        time          the
neighbours from whom she has taken la Raspelière,
the Marquis and Marquise de Cambremer." "This
evening, the Marquis and Marquise de Cambremer!"
exclaimed Cottard. "But I knew absolutely nothing
about it. Naturally, I knew like everybody else that
they would be coming one day, but I had no idea
that it was to be so soon. Sapristi!" he went on,
turning to myself, "what did I tell you? The Princess
Sherbatoff,                 the           Marquis                and           Marquise                 de
Cambremer." And, after repeating these names,
lulling himself with their melody: "You see that we


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move in good company," he said to me. "However,
as it's your first appearance, you'll be one of the
crowd. It is going to be an exceptionally brilliant
gathering." And, turning to Brichot, he went on:
"The Mistress will be furious. It is time we appeared
to lend her a hand." Ever since Mme. Verdurin had
been at la Raspelière she had pretended for the
benefit of the faithful to be at once feeling and
regretting the necessity of inviting her landlords for
one evening. By so doing she would obtain better
terms next year, she explained, and was inviting
them for business reasons only. But she pretended
to regard with such terror, to make such a bugbear
of the idea of dining with people who did not belong
to the little group that she kept putting off the evil
day. The prospect did for that matter alarm her
slightly for the reasons which she professed, albeit
exaggerating them, if at the same time it enchanted
her for reasons of snobbishness which she preferred
to keep to herself. She was therefore partly sincere,
she believed the little clan to be something so
matchless throughout the world, one of those


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perfect wholes which it takes centuries of time to
produce, that she trembled at the thought of seeing
introduced into its midst these provincials, people
ignorant of the Ring and the Meistersinger, who
would be unable to play their part in the concert of
conversation and were capable, by coming to Mme.
Verdurin's,               of        ruining            one          of       those            famous
Wednesdays, masterpieces of art incomparable and
frail, like those Venetian glasses which one false
note is enough to shatter. "Besides, they are bound
to be absolutely anti, and militarists," M. Verdurin
had said. "Oh, as for that, I don't mind, we've heard
quite enough about all that business," had replied
Mme. Verdurin, who, a sincere Dreyfusard, would
nevertheless have been glad to discover a social
counterpoise to the preponderant Dreyfusism of her
salon. For Dreyfusism was triumphant politically, but
not socially. Labori, Reinach, Picquart, Zola were
still, to people in society, more or less traitors, who
could only keep them aloof from the little nucleus.
And so, after this incursion into politics, Mme.
Verdurin was determined to return to the world of


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art. Besides were not Indy, Debussy, on the 'wrong'
side in the Case? "So far as the Case goes, we need
only remember Brichot," she said (the Don being
the only one of the faithful who had sided with the
General Staff, which had greatly lowered him in the
esteem of Madame Verdurin). "There is no need to
be eternally discussing the Dreyfus case. No, the
fact of the matter is that the Cambremers bore me."
As      for       the        faithful,           no        less        excited            by        their
unconfessed                  desire           to      make            the         Cambremers'
acquaintance than dupes of the affected reluctance
which Mme. Verdurin said she felt to invite them,
they returned, day after day, in conversation with
her, to the base arguments with which she herself
supported               the        invitation,              tried         to       make            them
irresistible. "Make up your mind to it once and for
all," Cottard repeated, "and you will have better
terms for next year, they will pay the gardener, you
will have the use of the meadow. That will be well
worth a boring evening. I am thinking only of
yourselves," he added, albeit his heart had leaped
on one occasion, when, in Mme. Verdurin's carriage,


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he had met the carriage of the old Mme. de
Cambremer and, what was more, he had been
abased in the sight of the railwaymen when, at the
station, he had found himself standing beside the
Marquis. For their part, the Cambremers, living far
too remote from the social movement ever to
suspect that certain ladies of fashion were speaking
with a certain consideration of Mme. Verdurin,
imagined that she was a person who could know
none but Bohemians, was perhaps not even legally
married, and so far as people of birth were
concerned would never meet any but themselves.
They had resigned themselves to the thought of
dining with her only to be on good terms with a
tenant who, they hoped, would return again for
many seasons, especially after they had, in the
previous month, learned that she had recently
inherited all those millions. It was in silence and
without any vulgar pleasantries that they prepared
themselves for the fatal day. The faithful had given
up hope of its ever coming, so often had Mme.
Verdurin already fixed in their hearing a date that


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was invariably postponed. These false decisions
were intended not merely to make a display of the
boredom that she felt at the thought of this dinner-
party, but to keep in suspense those members of
the        little        group             who           were            staying             in        the
neighbourhood and were sometimes inclined to fail.
Not that the Mistress guessed that the "great day"
was as delightful a prospect to them as to herself,
but in order that, having persuaded them that this
dinner-party was to her the most terrible of social
duties, she might make an appeal to their devotion.
"You are not going to leave me all alone with those
Chinese mandarins! We must assemble in full force
to support the boredom. Naturally, we shan't be
able to talk about any of the things in which we are
interested. It will be a Wednesday spoiled, but what
is one to do!"


       "Indeed," Brichot explained to me, "I fancy that
Mme. Verdurin, who is highly intelligent and takes
infinite pains in the elaboration of her Wednesdays,
was by no means anxious to see these bumpkins of


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ancient lineage but scanty brains. She could not
bring herself to invite the dowager Marquise, but
has       resigned               herself            to      having             the        son         and
daughter-in-law." "Ah! We are to see the Marquise
de Cambremer?" said Cottard with a smile into
which           he        saw           fit       to       introduce                a       leer          of
sentimentality, albeit he had no idea whether Mme.
de Cambremer were good-looking or not. But the
title Marquise suggested to him fantastic thoughts of
gallantry. "Ah! I know her," said Ski, who had met
her once when he was out with Mme.                                                        Verdurin.
"Not in the biblical sense of the word, I trust," said
the       doctor,            darting            a      sly       glance            through              his
eyeglass; this was one of his favourite pleasantries.
"She is intelligent," Ski informed me. "Naturally," he
went on, seeing that I said nothing, and dwelling
with a smile upon each word, "she is intelligent and
at the same time she is not, she lacks education,
she is frivolous, but she has an instinct for beautiful
things. She may say nothing, but she will never say
anything             silly.         And          besides,              her        colouring               is
charming. She would be an amusing person to


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paint," he added, half shutting his eyes, as though
he saw her posing in front of him. As my opinion of
her was quite the opposite of what Ski was
expressing with so many fine shades, I observed
merely that she was the sister of an extremely
distinguished engineer, M. Legrandin. "There, you
see, you are going to be introduced to a pretty
woman," Brichot said to me, "and one never knows
what may come of that. Cleopatra was not even a
great lady, she was a little woman, the unconscious,
terrible little woman of our Meilhac, and just think of
the consequences, not only to that idiot Antony, but
to the whole of the ancient world." "I have already
been introduced to Mme. de Cambremer," I replied.
"Ah! In that case, you will find yourself on familiar
ground." "I shall be all the more delighted to meet
her," I answered him, "because she has promised
me a book by the former curé of Com-bray about
the place-names of this district, and I shall be able
to remind her of her promise. I am interested in that
priest, and also in etymologies." "Don't put any faith
in the ones he gives," replied Brichot, "there is a


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copy of the book at la Raspelière, which I have
glanced through, but without finding anything of any
value; it is a mass of error. Let me give you an
example. The word Bricq is found in a number of
place-names in this neighbourhood. The worthy
cleric had the distinctly odd idea that it comes from
Briga, a height, a fortified place. He finds it already
in the Celtic tribes, Latobriges, Nemetobriges, and
so forth, and traces it down to such names as
Briand, Brion, and so forth. To confine ourselves to
the region in which we have the pleasure of your
company at this moment, Bricquebose means the
wood on the height, Bricqueville the habitation on
the height, Bricquebec, where we shall be stopping
presently before coming to Maineville, the height by
the stream. Now there is not a word of truth in all
this, for the simple reason that bricq is the old Norse
word which means simply a bridge. Just as fleur,
which Mme. de Cambremer's protégé takes infinite
pains to connect, in one place with the Scandinavian
words floi, flo, in another with the Irish word ae or
aer, is, beyond any doubt, the fjord of the Danes,


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and means harbour. So too, the excellent priest
thinks that the station of Saint-Mars-le-Vetu, which
adjoins la Raspelière, means Saint-Martin-le-Vieux
(vetus). It is unquestionable that the word vieux has
played a great part in the toponymy of this region.
Vieux comes as a rule from vadum, and means a
passage, as at the place called les Vieux. It is what
the English call ford (Oxford, Hereford). But, in this
particular instance, Vêtu is derived not from vetus,
but from vas-tatus, a place that is devastated and
bare. You have, round about here, Sottevast, the
vast of Setold, Brillevast, the vast of Berold. I am all
the more certain of the cure's mistake, in that Saint-
Mars-le-Vetu was formerly called Saint-Mars du Cast
and even Saint-Mars-de-Terregate. Now the v and
the g in these words are the same letter. We say
dévaster, but also gâcher. Jâchères and gatines
(from the High German wastinna) have the same
meaning: Terregate is therefore terra vasta. As for
Saint-Mars, formerly (save the mark) Saint-Merd, it
is    Saint-Medardus,                        which           appears              variously              as
Saint-Médard, Saint-Mard, Saint-Marc, Cinq-Mars,


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and even Dammas. Nor must we forget that quite
close to here, places bearing the name of Mars are
proof simply of a pagan origin (the god Mars) which
has remained alive in this country but which the
holy man refuses to see. The high places dedicated
to the gods are especially frequent, such as the
mount of Jupiter (Jeumont). Your curé declines to
admit this, but, on the other hand, wherever
Christianity has left traces, they escape his notice.
He has gone so far afield as to Loctudy, a barbarian
name, according to him, whereas it is simply Locus
Sancti Tudeni, nor has he in Sammarcoles divined
Sanctus Martialis. Your curé," Brichot continued,
seeing           that          I       was          interested,                 "derives               the
terminations hon, home, holm, from the word holl
(hullus), a hill, whereas it cornes from the Norse
holm, an island, with which you are familiar in
Stockholm, and which is so widespread throughout
this district, la Houlme, Engohomme, Tahoume,
Robehomme, Néhomme, Quettehon, and so forth."
These names made me think of the day when
Albertine had wished to go to Amfreville-la-Bigot


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(from the name of two successive lords of the
manor, Brichot told me), and had then suggested
that we should dine together at Robehomme. As for
Maineville,              we        were          just         coming             to       it.     "Isn't
Néhomme," I asked, "somewhere near Carquethuit
and Clitourps?" "Precisely; Néhomme is the holm,
the island or peninsula of the famous Viscount Nigel,
whose name has survived also in Neville. The
Carquethuit and Clitourps that you mention furnish
Mme. de Cambremer's protégé with an occasion for
further blunders. No doubt he has seen that carque
is a church, the Kirche of the Germans. You will
remember                 Querqueville,                   not         to      mention               Dun-
kerque. For there we should do better to stop and
consider the famous word Dun, which to the Celts
meant high ground. And that you will find over the
whole of France. Your abbé was hypnotised by
Duneville, which recurs in the Eure-et-Loir; he
would have found Châteaudun, Dun-le-Roi in the
Cher, Duneau in the Sarthe, Dun in the Ariège,
Dune-les-Places in the Nièvre, and many others.
This word Dun leads him into a curious error with


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regard to Douville where we shall be alighting, and
shall find Mme. Verdurin's comfortable carriages
awaiting us. Douville, in Latin donvilla, says he. As a
matter of fact, Douville does lie at the foot of high
hills. Your curé, who knows everything, feels all the
same that he has made a blunder. He has, indeed,
found in an old cartulary, the name Domvilla.
Whereupon he retracts; Douville, according to him,
is a fief belonging to the Abbot, Domino Abbati, of
Mont          Saint-Michel.                   He        is       delighted               with          the
discovery, which is distinctly odd when one thinks of
the scandalous life that, according to the Capitulary
of Sainte-Claire sur Epte, was led at Mont Saint-
Michel, though no more extraordinary than to
picture the King of Denmark as suzerain of all this
coast, where he encouraged the worship of Odin far
more than that of Christ. On the other hand, the
supposition that the n has been changed to m does
not shock me, and requires less alteration than the
perfectly correct Lyon, which also is derived from
Dun (Lugdunum). But the fact is, the abbé is
mistaken. Douville was never Donville, but Doville,


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Eudonis villa, the village of Eudes. Douville was
formerly called Escalecliff, the steps up the cliff.
About the year 1233, Eudes le Bouteiller, Lord of
Escalecliff, set out for the Holy Land; on the eve of
his departure he made over the church to the Abbey
of Blanche-lande. By an exchange of courtesies, the
village took his name, whence we have Douville to-
day. But I must add that toponymy, of which
moreover I know little or nothing, is not an exact
science; had we not this historical evidence, Douville
might quite well come from Ouville, that is to say
the Waters. The forms in ai (Aiguës-Mortes), from
aqua, are constantly changed to eu or ou. Now
there were, quite close to Douville, certain famous
springs, Carquethuit. You might suppose that the
curé was only too ready to detect there a Christian
origin, especially as this district seems to have been
pretty hard to convert, since successive attempts
were made by Saint Ursal, Saint Gofroi, Saint
Barsanore, Saint Laurent of Brèvedent, who finally
handed over the task to the monks of Beaubec. But
as regards thuit the writer is mistaken, he sees in it


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a form of toft, a building, as in Cricquetot, Ectot,
Yvetot, whereas it is the thveit, the clearing, the
reclaimed land, as in Braquetuit, le Thuit, Regnetuit,
and so forth. Similarly, if he recognises in Clitourps
the Norman thorp which means village, he insists
that the first syllable of the word must come from
clivus, a slope, whereas it comes from cliff, a
precipice. But his biggest blunders are due not so
much to his ignorance as to his prejudices. However
loyal a Frenchman one is, there is no need to fly in
the face of the evidence and take Saint-Laurent en
Bray to be the Roman priest, so famous at one time,
when           he         is      actually              Saint           Lawrence                  'Toot,
Archbishop of Dublin. But even more than his
patriotic sentiments, your friend's religious bigotry
leads him into strange errors. Thus you have not far
from our hosts at la Raspelière two places called
Montmartin, Montmartin-sur-Mer and Mont-martin-
en-Graignes. In the case of Craignes, the good curé
has been quite right, he has seen that Craignes, in
Latin        Crania,             in      Greek            Krene,             means             ponds,
marshes; how many instances of Cresmays, Croen,


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Gremeville, Lengronne, might we not adduce? But,
when he comes to Montmartin, your self-styled
linguist positively insists that these must be parishes
dedicated to Saint Martin. He bases his opinion upon
the fact that the Saint is their patron, but does not
realise that he was only adopted subsequently; or
rather he is blinded by his hatred of paganism; he
refuses to see that we should say Mont-Saint-Martin
as we say Mont-Saint-Michel, if it were a question of
Saint Martin, whereas the name Montmartin refers
in a far more pagan fashion to temples consecrated
to the god Mars, temples of which, it is true, no
other vestige remains, but which the undisputed
existence in the neighbourhood of vast Roman
camps would render highly probable even without
the name Montmartin, which removes all doubt.
You see that the little pamphlet which you will find
at la Raspelière is far from perfect." I protested that
at Combray the curé had often told us interesting
etymologies. "He was probably better on his own
ground, the move to Normandy must have made
him lose his bearings." "Nor did it do him any good,"


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I added, "for he came here with neurasthenia and
went         away           again           with         rheumatism."                     "Ah,          his
neurasthenia is to blame. He has lapsed from
neurasthenia to philology, as my worthy master
Pocquelin would have said. Tell us, Cottard, do you
suppose that neurasthenia can have a disturbing
effect on philology, philology a soothing effect on
neurasthenia and the relief from neurasthenia lead
to rheumatism?" "Undoubtedly, rheumatism and
neurasthenia                  are        subordinate                   forms           of       neuro-
arthritism. You may pass from one to the other by
metastasis." "The eminent Professor," said Brichot,
"expresses himself in a French as highly infused
with Latin and Greek as M. Purgon himself, of
Molièresque memory! My uncle, I refer to our
national Sarcey...." But he was prevented from
finishing his sentence. The Professor had leaped
from his seat with a wild shout: "The devil!" he
exclaimed on regaining his power of articulate
speech, "we have passed Maineville (d'you hear?)
and Renneville too." He had just noticed that the
train was stopping at Saint-Mars-le-Vetu, where


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most of the passengers alighted. "They can't have
run through without stopping. We must have failed
to notice it while we were talking about the
Cambremers. Listen to me, Ski, pay attention, I am
going to tell you 'a good one,'" said Cottard, who
had taken a fancy to this expression, in common
use in certain medical circles. "The Princess must be
on the train, she can't have seen us, and will have
got into another compartment. Come along and find
her. Let's hope this won't land us in trouble!" And he
led us all off in search of Princess Sherbatoff. He
found her in the corner of an empty compartment,
reading the Revue des Deux Mondes. She had long
ago, from fear of rebuffs, acquired the habit of
keeping in her place, or remaining in her corner, in
life as on the train, and of not offering her hand
until the other person had greeted her. She went on
reading as the faithful trooped into her carriage. I
recognised her immediately; this woman who might
have forfeited her position but was nevertheless of
exalted birth, who in any event was the pearl of a
salon such as the Verdurins', was the lady whom, on


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the same train, I had put down, two days earlier, as
possibly            the        keeper             of      a      brothel.             Her         social
personality, which had been so vague, became clear
to me as soon as I learned her name, just as when,
after racking our brains over a puzzle, we at length
hit upon the word which clears up all the obscurity,
and which, in the case of a person, is his name. To
discover two days later who the person is with
whom one has travelled in the train is a far more
amusing surprise than to read in the next number of
a magazine the clue to the problem set in the
previous number. Big restaurants, casinos, local
trains, are the family portrait galleries of these
social enigmas. "Princess, we must have missed you
at Maineville! May we come and sit in your
compartment?" "Why, of course," said the Princess
who, upon hearing Cottard address her, but only
then, raised from her magazine a pair of eyes
which, like the eyes of M. de Charlus, although
gentler, saw perfectly well the people of whose
presence she pretended to be unaware. Cottard,
coming to the conclusion that the fact of my having


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been invited to meet the Cambremers was a
sufficient              recommendation,                            decided,                after           a
momentary hesitation, to intro-duce me to the
Princess,            who          bowed             with         great          courtesy               but
appeared to be hearing my name for the first time.
"Cré nom!" cried the doctor, "my wife has forgotten
to make them change the buttons on my white
waist-coat.                     Ah!         Those             women,               they           never
remember anything. Don't you ever marry, my
boy," he said to me. And as this was one of the
pleasantries which he considered appropriate when
he had nothing else to say, he peeped out of the
corner of his eye at the Princess and the rest of the
faithful, who, because he was a Professor and an
Academician, smiled back, admiring his good temper
and freedom from pride. The Princess informed us
that the young violinist had been found. He had
been confined to bed the evening before by a sick
headache,               but         was         coming              that         evening              and
bringing with him a friend of his father whom he had
met at Doncières. She had learned this from Mme.
Verdurin with whom she had taken luncheon that


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morning, she told us in a rapid voice, rolling her rs,
with her Russian accent, softly at the back of her
throat, as though they were not rs but ls. "Ah! You
had luncheon with her this morning," Cottard said to
the Princess; but turned his eyes to myself, the
purport of this remark being to shew me on what
intimate terms the Princess was with the Mistress.
"You are indeed a faithful adherent!" "Yes, I love the
little cirlcle, so intelligent, so agleeable, neverl
spiteful, quite simple, not at all snobbish, and clevel
to theirl fingle-tips." "Nom d'une pipe! I must have
lost my ticket, I can't find it anywhere," cried
Cottard,            with          an        agitation              that         was,          in       the
circumstances, quite unjustified. He knew that at
Douville, where a couple of landaus would be
awaiting us, the collector would let him pass without
a ticket, and would only bare his head all the more
humbly,             so       that        the        salute           might            furnish           an
explanation of his indulgence, to wit that he had of
course recognised Cottard as one of the Verdurins'
regular guests. "They won't shove me in the lock-up
for that," the doctor concluded. "You were saying,


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Sir," I inquired of Brichot, "that there used to be
some famous waters near here; how do we know
that?" "The name of the next station is one of a
multitude of proofs. It is called Fervaches." "I don't
undlestand what he's talking about," mumbled the
Princess, as though she were saying to me out of
politeness: "He's rather a bore, ain't he?" "Why,
Princess, Fervaches means hot springs. Fervidae
aquae. But to return to the young violinist," Brichot
went on, "I was quite forgetting, Cottard, to tell you
the great news. Had you heard that our poor friend
Dechambre,                  who          used          to      be        Mme.           Verdurin's
favourite pianist, has just died? It is terribly sad."
"He was quite young," replied Cottard, "but he must
have had some trouble with his liver, there must
have been something sadly wrong in that quarter,
he had been looking very queer indeed for a long
time past." "But he was not so young as all that,"
said Brichot; "in the days when Elstir and Swann
used to come to Mme. Verdurin's, Dechambre had
already made himself a reputation in Paris, and,
what is remarkable, without having first received


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the baptism of success abroad. Ah! He was no
follower of the Gospel according to Saint Barnum,
that fellow." "You are mistaken, he could not have
been going to Mme. Verdurin's, at that time, he was
still in the nursery." "But, unless my old memory
plays me false, I was under the impression that
Dechambre                  used          to      play         Vinteuil's             sonata             for
Swann, when that clubman, who had broken with
the aristocracy, had still no idea that he was one
day to become the embourgeoised Prince Consort of
our national Odette." "It is impossible, Vinteuil's
sonata was played at Mme. Verdurin's long after
Swann ceased to come there," said the doctor, who,
like all people who work hard and think that they
remember many things which they imagine to be of
use to them, forget many others, a condition which
enables            them           to       go        into        ecstasies               over          the
memories of people who have nothing else to do.
"You are hopelessly muddled, though your brain is
as sound as ever," said the doctor with a smile.
Brichot admitted that he was mistaken. The train
stopped. We were at la Sogne. The name stirred my


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curiosity. "How I should like to know what all these
names mean," I said to Cottard. "You must ask M.
Brichot, he may know, perhaps." "Why, la Sogne is
la Cicogne, Siconia," replied Brichot, whom I was
burning to interrogate about many other names.


       Forgetting her attachment to her 'corner,' Mme.
Sherbatoff kindly offered to change places with me,
so that I might talk more easily with Brichot, whom
I wanted to ask about other etymologies that
interested me, and assured me that she did not
mind in the least whether she travelled with her face
or her back to the engine, standing, or seated, or
anyhow.             She remained on the defensive until she
had discovered a newcomer's intentions, but as
soon as she had realised that these were friendly,
she would do everything in her power to oblige. At
length the train stopped at the station of Douville-
Féterne, which being more or less equidistant from
the villages of Féterne and Douville, bore for this
reason their hyphenated name. "Saperlipopette!"
exclaimed Doctor Cottard, when we came to the


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barrier where the tickets were collected, and,
pretending to have only just discovered his loss, "I
can't find my ticket, I must have lost it." But the
collector, taking off his cap, assured him that it did
not matter and smiled respectfully. The Princess
(giving instructions to the coachman, as though she
were a sort of lady in waiting to Mme. Verdurin,
who, because of the Cambremers, had not been
able to come to the station, as, for that matter, she
rarely did) took me, and also Brichot, with herself in
one of the carriages. The doctor, Saniette and Ski
got into the other.


       The driver, although quite young, was the
Verdurins' first coachman, the only one who had any
right to the title; he took them, in the daytime, on
all their excursions, for he knew all the roads, and in
the evening went down to meet the faithful and took
them          back          to      the         station           later         on.        He        was
accompanied by extra helpers (whom he selected if
necessary). He was an excellent fellow, sober and
capable, but with one of those melancholy faces on


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which a fixed stare indicates that the merest trifle
will make the person fly into a passion, not to say
nourish dark thoughts. But at the moment he was
quite happy, for he had managed to secure a place
for his brother, another excellent type of fellow, with
the       Verdurins.                We         began            by        driving            through
Douville. Grassy knolls ran down from the village to
the sea, in wide slopes to which their saturation in
moisture and salt gave a richness, a softness, a
vivacity            of       extreme               tones.            The          islands             and
indentations of Rivebelle, far nearer now than at
Balbec, gave this part of the coast the appearance,
novel to me, of a relief map. We passed by some
little bungalows, almost all of which were let to
painters; turned into a track upon which some loose
cattle, as frightened as were our horses, barred our
way for ten minutes, and emerged upon the cliff
road. "But, by the immortal gods," Brichot suddenly
asked, "let us return to that poor Dechambre; do
you suppose Mme. Verdurin knows? Has anyone told
her?" Mme. Verdurin, like most people who move in
society, simply because she needed the society of


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other people, never thought of them again for a
single day, as soon as, being dead, they could no
longer          come           to       the        Wednesdays,                     nor        to       the
Saturdays, nor dine without dressing. And one could
not say of the little clan, a type in this respect of all
salons, that it was composed of more dead than
living members, seeing that, as soon as one was
dead, it was as though one had never existed. But,
to escape the nuisance of having to speak of the
deceased, in other words to postpone one of the
dinners--a thing impossible to the mistress--as a
token of mourning, M. Verdurin used to pretend that
the death of the faithful had such an effect on his
wife that, in the interest of her health, it must never
be mentioned to her. Moreover, and perhaps just
because the death of other people seemed to him so
conclusive, so vulgar an accident, the thought of his
own death filled him with horror and he shunned
any consideration that might lead to it. As for
Brichot, since he was the soul of honesty and
completely taken in by what M. Verdurin said about
his wife, he dreaded for his friend's sake the


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emotions that such a bereavement must cause her.
"Yes, she knew the worst this morning," said the
Princess, "it was impossible to keep it from her."
"Ah! Thousand thunders of Zeus!" cried Brichot.
"Ah! it must have been a terrible blow, a friend of
twenty-five years' standing. There was a man who
was one of us." "Of course, of course, what can you
expect? Such incidents are bound to be painful; but
Madame Verdurin is a brave woman, she is even
more cerebral than emotive." "I don't altogether
agree with the Doctor," said the Princess, whose
rapid speech, her murmured accents, certainly
made her appear both sullen and rebellious. "Mme.
Verdurin,              beneath                a       cold          exterior,               conceals
treasures of sensibility. M. Verdurin told me that he
had had great difficulty in preventing her from going
to Paris for the funeral; he was obliged to let her
think that it was all to be held in the country." "The
devil! She wanted to go to Paris, did she? Of course,
I know that she has a heart, too much heart
perhaps. Poor Dechambre! As Madame Verdurin
remarked not two months ago: 'Compared with him,


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Planté, Paderewski, Risler himself are nowhere!' Ah,
he could say with better reason than that limelighter
Nero, who has managed to take in even German
scholarship: Qualis artifex pereo! But he at least,
Dechambre, must have died in the fulfilment of his
priesthood, in the odour of Beethovenian devotion;
and gallantly, I have no doubt; he had every right,
that interpreter of German music, to pass away
while celebrating the Mass in D. But he was, when
all is said, the man to greet the unseen with a
cheer, for that inspired performer would produce at
times from the Parisianised Champagne stock of
which he came, the swagger and smartness of a
guardsman."


       >From the height we had now reached, the sea
suggested no longer, as at Balbec, the undulations
of swelling mountains, but on the contrary the view,
beheld from a mountain-top or from a road winding
round its flank, of a blue-green glacier or a glittering
plain, situated at a lower level. The lines of the
currents seemed to be fixed upon its surface, and to


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have traced there for ever their concentric circles;
the enamelled face of the sea which changed
imperceptibly in colour, assumed towards the head
of the bay, where an estuary opened, the blue
whiteness of milk, in which little black boats that did
not move seemed entangled like flies. I felt that
from nowhere could one discover a vaster prospect.
But at each turn in the road a fresh expanse was
added to it and when we arrived at the Douville toll-
house, the spur of the cliff which until then had
concealed from us half the bay, withdrew, and all of
a sudden I descried upon my left a gulf as profound
as that which I had already had before me, but one
that changed the proportions of the other and
doubled its beauty. The air at this lofty point
acquired a keenness and purity that intoxicated me.
I adored the Verdurins; that they should have sent a
carriage for us seemed to me a touching act of
kindness. I should have liked to kiss the Princess. I
told her that I had never seen anything so beautiful.
She professed that she too loved this spot more
than any other. But I could see that to her as to the


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Verdurins the thing that really mattered was not to
gaze at the view like tourists, but to partake of good
meals there, to entertain people whom they liked, to
write letters, to read books, in short to live in these
surroundings, passively allowing the beauty of the
scene to soak into them rather than making it the
object of their attention.


       After the toll-house, where the carriage had
stopped for a moment at such a height above the
sea that, as from a mountain-top, the sight of the
blue gulf beneath almost made one dizzy, I opened
the window; the sound, distinctly caught, of each
wave that broke in turn had something sublime in
its softness and precision. Was it not like an index of
measurement which, upsetting all our ordinary
impressions, shews us that vertical distances may
be coordinated with horizontal, in contradiction of
the idea that our mind generally forms of them; and
that, though they bring the sky nearer to us in this
way, they are not great; that they are indeed less
great for a sound which traverses them as did the


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sound of those little waves, the medium through
which it has to pass being purer. And in fact if one
went back but a couple of yards below the toll-
house, one could no longer distinguish that sound of
waves, which six hundred feet of cliff had not
robbed of its delicate, minute and soft precision. I
said to myself that my grandmother would have
listened to it with the delight that she felt in all
manifestations of nature or art, in the simplicity of
which one discerns grandeur. I was now at the
highest pitch of exaltation, which raised everything
round about me accordingly. It melted my heart
that the Verdurins should have sent to meet us at
the station. I said as much to the Princess, who
seemed to think that I was greatly exaggerating so
simple an act of courtesy. I know that she admitted
subsequently to Cottard that she found me very
enthusiastic; he replied that I was too emotional,
required sedatives and ought to take to knitting. I
pointed out to the Princess every tree, every little
house smothered in its mantle of roses, I made her
admire everything, I would have liked to take her in


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my arms and press her to my heart. She told me
that she could see that I had a gift for painting, that
of course I must sketch, that she was surprised that
nobody had told her about it. And she confessed
that the country was indeed pic-I turesque. We
drove through, where it perched upon its height, the
little I village of Englesqueville (Engleberti villa,
Brichot informed us). "But are you quite sure that
there will be a party this evening, in spite of
Dechambre's death, Princess?" he went on, without
stopping to think that the presence at the station of
the carriage in which we were sitting was in itself an
answer to his question. "Yes," said the Princess, "M.
Verldulin insisted that it should not be put off,
simply to keep his wife from thinking. And besides,
after never failing for all these years to entertain on
Wednesdays, such a change in her habits would
have been bound to upset her. Her nerves are velly
bad just now. M. Verdurin was particularly pleased
that you were coming to dine this evening, because
he knew that it would be a great distraction for
Mme. Verdurin," said the Princess, forgetting her


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pretence of having never heard my name before. "I
think that it will be as well not to say anything in
front of Mme. Verdurin," the Princess added. "Ah! I
am glad you warned me," Brichot artlessly replied.
"I shall pass on your suggestion to Cottard." The
carriage stopped for a moment. It moved on again,
but the sound that the wheels had been making in
the village street had ceased. We had turned into
the main avenue of la Raspelière where M. Verdurin
stood waiting for us upon the steps. "I did well to
put on a dinner-jacket," he said, observing with
pleasure that the faithful had put on theirs, "since I
have such smart gentlemen in my party." And as I
apologised for not having changed: "Why, that's
quite all right.                  We're all friends here. I should be
delighted to offer you one of my own dinner-jackets,
but it wouldn't fit you." The handclasp throbbing
with emotion which, as he entered the hall of la
Raspelière, and by way of condolence at the death
of the pianist, Brichot gave our host elicited no
response from the latter. I told him how greatly I
admired the scenery.                                 "Ah! All the better, and


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you've seen nothing, we must take you round. Why
not come and spend a week or two here, the air is
excellent." Brichot was afraid that his handclasp had
not been understood. "Ah! Poor Dechambre!" he
said, but in an undertone, in case Mme. Verdurin
was within earshot. "It is terrible," replied M.
Verdurin lightly. "So young," Brichot pursued the
point.         Annoyed               at       being           detained              over          these
futilities, M.               Verdurin replied in a hasty tone and
with an embittered groan, not of grief but of
irritated impatience: "Why yes, of course, but what's
to be done about it, it's no use crying over spilt
milk, talking about him won't bring him back to life,
will it?" And, his civility returning with his joviality:
"Come along, my good Brichot, get your things off
quickly. We have a bouillabaisse which mustn't be
kept waiting. But, in heaven's name, don't start
talking about Dechambre to Madame Verdurin. You
know that she always hides her feelings, but she is
quite morbidly sensitive. I give you my word, when
she heard that Dechambre was dead, she almost
cried," said M. Verdurin in a tone of profound irony.


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One might have concluded, from hearing him speak,
that it implied a form of insanity to regret the death
of a friend of thirty years' standing, and on the
other hand one gathered that the perpetual union of
M. Verdurin and his wife did not preclude his
constantly criticising her and her frequently irritating
him. "If you mention it to her, she will go and make
herself ill again. It is deplorable, three weeks after
her bronchitis. When that happens, it is I who have
to be sick-nurse.                      You can understand that I have
had more than enough of it. Grieve for Dechambre's
fate in your heart as much as you like. Think of him,
but do not speak about him. I was very fond of
Dechambre, but you cannot blame me for being
fonder still of my wife. Here's Cottard, now, you can
ask him." And indeed, he knew that a family doctor
can do many little services, such as prescribing that
one must not give way to grief.


       The docile Cottard had said to the Mistress:
"Upset yourself like that, and to-morrow you will
give me a temperature of 102," as he might have


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said to the cook: "To-morrow you will give me a riz
de veau." Medicine, when it fails to cure the sick,
busies itself with changing the sense of verbs and
pronouns.


       M. Verdurin was glad to find that Saniette,
notwithstanding the snubs that he had had to
endure two days earlier, had not deserted the little
nucleus.            And          indeed             Mme.            Verdurin              and          her
husband had acquired, in their idleness, cruel
instincts for which the great occasions, occurring too
rarely, no longer sufficed. They had succeeded in
effecting a breach between Odette and Swann,
between Brichot and his mistress. They would try it
again with some one else, that was understood. But
the opportunity did not present itself every day.
Whereas, thanks to his shuddering sensibility, his
timorous and quickly aroused shyness, Saniette
provided them with a whipping-block for every day
in the year. And so, for fear of his failing them, they
took care always to invite him with friendly and
persuasive words, such as the bigger boys at school,


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the old soldiers in a regiment, address to a recruit
whom they are anxious to beguile so that they may
get him into their clutches, with the sole object of
flattering him for the moment and bullying him
when he can no longer escape. "Whatever you do,"
Brichot reminded Cottard, who had not heard what
M. Verdurin was saying, "mum's the word before
Mme. Verdurin. Have no fear, O Cottard, you are
dealing with a sage, as Theocritus says. Besides, M.
Verdurin is right, what is the use of lamentations,"
he went on, for, being capable of assimilating forms
of speech and the ideas which they suggested to
him, but having no finer perception, he had admired
in M. Verdurin's remarks the most courageous
stoicism. "All the same, it is a great talent that has
gone from the world." "What, are you still talking
about Dechambre," said M. Verdurin, who had gone
on ahead of us, and, seeing that we were not
following him, had turned back. "Listen," he said to
Brichot, "nothing is gained by exaggeration. The fact
of his being dead is no excuse for making him out a
genius, which he was not. He played well, I admit,


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and what is more, he was in his proper element
here; transplanted, he ceased to exist. My wife was
infatuated with him and made his reputation. You
know what she is. I will go farther, in the interest of
his own reputation he has died at the right moment,
he is done to a turn, as the demoiselles de Caen,
grilled according to the incomparable recipe of
Pampilles, are going to be, I hope (unless you keep
us standing here all night with your jeremiads in this
Kasbah exposed to all the winds of heaven). You
don't seriously expect us all to die of hunger
because Dechambre is dead, when for the last year
he was obliged to practise scales before giving a
concert; to recover for the moment, and for the
moment only, the suppleness of his wrists. Besides,
you are going to hear this evening, or at any rate to
meet, for the rascal is too fond of deserting his art,
after dinner, for the card-table, somebody who is a
far greater artist than Dechambre, a youngster
whom           my         wife         has         discovered"                 (as        she         had
discovered                Dechambre,                      and          Paderewski,                    and
everybody else): "Morel. He has not arrived yet, the


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devil. He is coming with an old friend of his family
whom he has picked up, and who bores him to
tears, but otherwise, not to get into trouble with his
father, he would have been obliged to stay down at
Doncières and keep him company: the Baron de
Charlus." The faithful entered the drawing-room. M.
Verdurin, who had remained behind with me while I
took off my things, took my arm by way of a joke,
as one's host does at a dinner-party when there is
no lady for one to take in. "Did you have a pleasant
journey?" "Yes, M. Brichot told me things which
interested me greatly," said I, thinking of the
etymologies, and because I had heard that the
Verdurins greatly admired Brichot. "I am surprised
to hear that he told you anything," said M. Verdurin,
"he is such a retiring man, and talks so little about
the things he knows." This compliment did not strike
me as being very apt. "He seems charming," I
remarked. "Exquisite, delicious, not the sort of man
you meet every day, such a light, fantastic touch,
my wife adores him, and so do I!" replied M.
Verdurin             in      an        exaggerated                    tone,           as       though


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repeating a lesson. Only then did I grasp that what
he had said to me about Brichot was ironical. And I
asked myself whether M. Verdurin, since those far-
off days of which I had heard reports, had not
shaken off the yoke of his wife's tutelage.


       The sculptor was greatly astonished to learn
that the Verdurins were willing to have M. de
Charlus in their house. Whereas in the Faubourg
Saint-Germain, where M. de Charlus was so well
known, nobody ever referred to his morals (of which
most people had no suspicion, others remained
doubtful, crediting him rather with intense but
Platonic friendships, with behaving imprudently,
while         the        enlightened                  few        strenuously                  denied,
shrugging their shoulders, any insinuation upon
which some malicious Gallardon might venture),
those morals, the nature of which was known
perhaps to a few intimate friends, were, on the
other hand, being denounced daily far from the
circle in which he moved, just as, at times, the
sound of artillery fire is audible only beyond a zone


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of silence. Moreover, in those professional and
artistic circles where he was regarded as the typical
instance of inversion, his great position in society,
his noble origin were completely unknown, by a
process analogous to that which, among the people
of Rumania, has brought it about that the name of
Ron-sard is known as that of a great nobleman,
while his poetical work is unknown there. Not only
that, the Rumanian estimate of Ronsard's nobility is
founded upon an error. Similarly, if in the world of
painters and actors M. de Charlus had such an evil
reputation, that was due to their confusing him with
a certain Comte Leblois de Charlus who was not
even related to him (or, if so, the connexion was
extremely remote), and who had been arrested,
possibly by mistake, in the course of a police raid
which had become historic. In short, all the stories
related of our M. de Charlus referred to the other.
Many          professionals                   swore            that         they          had         had
relations with M. de Charlus, and did so in good
faith, believing that the false M. de Charlus was the
true one, the false one possibly encouraging, partly


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from an affectation of nobility, partly to conceal his
vice, a confusion which to the true one (the Baron
whom we already know) was for a long time
damaging, and afterwards, when he had begun to
go down the hill, became a convenience, for it
enabled him likewise to say: "That is not myself."
And in the present instance it was not he to whom
the rumours referred.                             Finally, what enhanced the
falsehood of the reports of an actual fact (the
Baron's tendencies), he had had an intimate and
perfectly pure friendship with an author who, in the
theatrical world, had for some reason acquired a
similar reputation which he in no way deserved.
When they were seen together at a first night,
people would say: "You see," just as it was
supposed that the Duchesse de Guermantes had
immoral relations with the Princesse de Parme; an
indestructible legend, for it would be disproved only
in      the        presence                of       those            two         great           ladies
themselves, to which the people who repeated it
would presumably never come any nearer than by
staring at them through their glasses in the theatre


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and slandering them to the occupant of the next
stall. Given M. de Charlus's morals, the sculptor
concluded all the more readily that the Baron's
social position must be equally low, since he had no
sort of information whatever as to the family to
which M. de Charlus belonged, his title or his name.
Just as Cottard imagined that everybody knew that
the degree of Doctor of Medicine implied nothing,
the       title        of      Consultant                  to      a       Hospital             meant
something, so people in society are mistaken when
they suppose that everybody has the same idea of
the       social         importance                  of      their         name            as       they
themselves and the other people of their set.


       The Prince d'Agrigente was regarded as a
swindler by a club servant to whom he owed
twenty-five louis, and regained his importance only
in the Faubourg Saint-Germain where he had three
sisters who were Duchesses, for it is not among the
humble people in whose eyes he is of small account,
but among the smart people who know what is
what, that the great nobleman creates an effect. M.


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de Charlus, for that matter, was to learn in the
course of the evening that his host had the vaguest
ideas about the most illustrious ducal families.


       Certain that the Verdurins were making a grave
mistake in                 allowing             an        individual              of      tarnished
reputation to be admitted to so 'select' a household
as theirs, the sculptor felt it his duty to take the
Mistress aside. "You are entirely mistaken, besides I
never pay any attention to those tales, and even if it
were true, I may be allowed to point out that it
could          hardly            compromise                    me!"            replied            Mme.
Verdurin, furious, for Morel being the principal
feature of the Wednesdays, the chief thing for her
was not to give any offence to him. As for Cottard,
he could not express an opinion, for he had asked
leave to go upstairs for a moment to 'do a little job'
in the buen retiro, and after that, in M. Verdurin's
bedroom, to write an extremely urgent letter for a
patient.


       A great publisher from Paris who had come to


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call, expecting to be invited to stay to dinner,
withdrew abruptly, quickly, realising that he was not
smart enough for the little clan. He was a tall, stout
man, very dark, with a studious and somewhat
cutting air. He reminded one of an ebony paper-
knife.


       Mme. Verdurin who, to welcome us in her
immense               drawing-room,                       in       which            displays              of
grasses, poppies, field-flowers, plucked only that
morning, alternated with a similar theme painted on
the walls, two centuries earlier, by an artist of
exquisite taste, had risen for a moment from a
game of cards which she was playing with an old
friend, begged us to excuse her for just one minute
while she finished her game, talking to us the while.
What I told her about my impressions did not,
however, seem altogether to please her. For one
thing I was shocked to observe that she and her
husband came indoors every day long before the
hour of those sunsets which were considered so fine
when seen from that cliff, and finer still from the


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terrace of la Raspelière, and which I would have
travelled miles to see. "Yes, it's incomparable," said
Mme. Verdurin carelessly, with a glance at the huge
windows which gave the room a wall of glass. "Even
though we have it always in front of us, we never
grow tired of it," and she turned her attention back
to her cards. Now my very enthusiasm made me
exacting. I expressed my regret that I could not see
from the drawing-room the rocks of Darnetal, which,
Elstir had told me, were quite lovely at that hour,
when they reflected so many colours. "Ah! You can't
see them from here, you would have to go to the
end of the park, to the 'view of the bay.' From the
seat there, you can take in the whole panorama. But
you can't go there by yourself, you will lose your
way. I can take you there, if you like," she added
kindly. "No, no, you are not satisfied with the illness
you had the other day, you want to make yourself ill
again. He will come back, he can see the view of the
bay another time." I did not insist, and understood
that it was enough for the Verdurins to know that
this sunset made its way into their drawing-room or


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dining-room, like a magnificent painting, like a
priceless Japanese enamel, justifying the high rent
that they were paying for la Raspelière, with plate
and linen, but a thing to which they rarely raised
their eyes; the important thing, here, for them was
to live comfortably, to take drives, to feed well, to
talk, to entertain agreeable friends whom they
provided with amusing games of billiards, good
meals, merry tea-parties. I noticed, however, later
on, how intelligently they had learned to know the
district, taking their guests for excursions as 'novel'
as the music to which they made them listen. The
part which the flowers of la Raspelière, the roads by
the sea's edge, the old houses, the undiscovered
churches, played in the life of M. Verdurin was so
great that those people who saw him only in Paris
and who, themselves, substituted for the life by the
seaside and in the country the refinements of life in
town could barely understand the idea that he
himself formed of his own life, or the importance
that his pleasures gave him in his own eyes. This
importance was further enhanced by the fact that


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the Verdurins were convinced that la Raspelière,
which they hoped to purchase, was a property
without its match in the world. This superiority
which their self-esteem made them attribute to la
Raspelière justified in their eyes my enthusiasm
which, but for that, would have annoyed them
slightly, because of the disappointments which it
involved (like my disappointment when long ago I
had first listened to Berma) and which I frankly
admitted to them.


       "I hear the carriage coming back," the Mistress
suddenly murmured. Let us state briefly that Mme.
Verdurin, quite apart from the inevitable changes
due to increasing years, no longer resembled what
she had been at the time when Swann and Odette
used to listen to the little phrase in her house. Even
when she heard it played, she was no longer obliged
to assume the air of attenuated admiration which
she used to assume then, for that had become her
normal expression. Under the influence of the
countless neuralgias which the music of Bach,


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Wagner, Vinteuil, Debussy had given her, Mme.
Verdurin's                  brow              had             assumed                    enormous
proportions, like limbs that are finally crippled by
rheumatism. Her temples, suggestive of a pair of
beautiful,             pain-stricken,                   milk-white                 spheres,               in
which Harmony rolled endlessly, flung back upon
either side her silvered tresses, and proclaimed, on
the Mistress's behalf, without any need for her to
say a word: "I know what is in store for me to-
night." Her features no longer took the trouble to
formulate              successively                  aesthetic              impressions                   of
undue violence, for they had themselves become
their       permanent                   expression                 on       a      countenance
ravaged and superb. This attitude of resignation to
the ever impending sufferings inflicted by Beauty,
and of the courage that was required to make her
dress for dinner when she had barely recovered
from the effects of the last sonata, had the result
that Mme. Verdurin, even when listening to the
most heartrending music, preserved a disdainfully
impassive countenance, and actually withdrew into
retirement to swallow her two spoonfuls of aspirin.


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       "Why, yes, here they are!" M. Verdurin cried
with relief when he saw the door open to admit
Morel, followed by M. de Charlus. The latter, to
whom dining with the Verdurins meant not so much
going         into         society            as       going           into        questionable
surroundings, was as frightened as a schoolboy
making his way for the first time into a brothel with
the utmost deference towards its mistress. Moreover
the persistent desire that M. de Charlus felt to
appear virile and frigid was overcome (when he
appeared in the open doorway) by those traditional
ideas of politeness which are awakened as soon as
shyness destroys an artificial attitude and makes an
appeal to the resources of the subconscious. When
it is a Charlus, whether he be noble or plebeian, that
is stirred by such a sentiment of instinctive and
atavistic politeness to strangers, it is always the
spirit of a relative of the female sex, attendant like a
goddess, or incarnate as a double, that undertakes
to introduce him into a strange drawing-room and to
mould his attitude until he comes face to face with


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his hostess. Thus a young painter, brought up by a
godly, Protestant, female cousin, will enter a room,
his head aslant and quivering, his eyes raised to the
ceiling, his hands gripping an invisible muff, the
remembered shape of which and its real and
tutelary presence will help the frightened artist to
cross         without             agoraphobia                   the         yawning               abyss
between the hall and the inner drawing-room. Thus
it was that the pious relative, whose memory is
helping him to-day, used to enter a room years ago,
and with so plaintive an air that one was asking
oneself what calamity she had come to announce,
when from her first words one realised, as now in
the case of the painter, that she had come to pay an
after-dinner call. By virtue of the same law, which
requires that life, in the interests of the still
unfulfilled             act,         shall         bring           into         play,           utilise,
adulterate, in a perpetual prostitution, the most
respectable, it may be the most sacred, sometimes
only the most innocent legacies from the past, and
albeit in this instance it engendered a different
aspect, the one of Mme. Cottard's nephews who


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distressed his family by his effeminate ways and the
company he kept would always make a joyous entry
as though he had a surprise in store for you or were
going to inform you that he had been left a fortune,
radiant with a happiness which it would have been
futile to ask him to explain, it being due to his
unconscious heredity and his misplaced sex. He
walked            upon            tiptoe,            was           no        doubt            himself
astonished that he was not holding a cardcase,
offered you his hand parting his lips as he had seen
his aunt part hers, and his uneasy glance was
directed at the mirror in which he seemed to wish to
make certain, albeit he was bare-headed, whether
his hat, as Mme. Cottard had once inquired of
Swann, was not askew. As for M. de Charlus, whom
the society in which he had lived furnished, at this
critical moment, with different examples, with other
patterns of affability, and above all with the maxim
that one must, in certain cases, when dealing with
people of humble rank, bring into play and make
use of one's rarest graces, which one normally holds
in reserve, it was with a flutter, archly, and with the


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same sweep with which a skirt would have enlarged
and impeded his waddling motion that he advanced
upon Mme. Verdurin with so flattered and honoured
an air that one would have said that to be taken to
her house was for him a supreme favour. One would
have thought that it was Mme. de Marsantes who
was entering the room, so prominent at that
moment was the woman whom a mistake on the
part of Nature had enshrined in the body of M. de
Charlus. It was true that the Baron had made every
effort to obliterate this mistake and to assume a
masculine               appearance.                  But         no       sooner            had         he
succeeded than, he having in the meantime kept the
same tastes, this habit of looking at things through
a     woman's               eyes          gave           him         a      fresh           feminine
appearance, due this time not to heredity but to his
own way of living. And as he had gradually come to
regard even social questions from the feminine point
of view, and without noticing it, for it is not only by
dint of lying to other people, but also by lying to
oneself that one ceases to be aware that one is
lying, albeit he had called upon his body to manifest


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(at the moment of his entering the Verdurins'
drawing-room) all the courtesy of a great nobleman,
that body which had fully understood what M. de
Charlus had ceased to apprehend, displayed, to
such an extent that the Baron would have deserved
the epithet 'ladylike,' all the attractions of a great
lady. Not that there need be any connexion between
the appearance of M. de Charlus and the fact that
sons, who do not always take after their fathers,
even without being inverts, and though they go
after women, may consummate upon their faces the
profanation of their mothers. But we need not
consider here a subject that deserves a chapter to
itself: the Profanation of the Mother.


       Albeit other reasons dictated this transformation
of M. de Charlus, and purely physical ferments set
his material substance 'working' and made his body
pass gradually into the category of women's bodies,
nevertheless the change that we record here was of
spiritual origin. By dint of supposing yourself to be ill
you become ill, grow thin, are too weak to rise from


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your bed, suffer from nervous enteritis. By dint of
thinking tenderly of men you become a woman, and
an imaginary spirit hampers your movements. The
obsession, just as in the other instance it affects
your health, may in this instance alter your sex.
Morel, who accompanied him, came to shake hands
with me. From that first moment, owing to a twofold
change that occurred in him I formed (alas, I was
not warned in time to act upon it!) a bad impression
of him. I have said that Morel, having risen above
his father's menial status, was generally pleased to
indulge in a contemptuous familiarity. He had talked
to me on the day when he brought me the
photographs                   without             once           addressing                  me          as
Monsieur, treating me as an inferior. What was my
surprise at Mme. Verdurin's to see him bow very low
before me, and before me alone, and to hear, before
he had even uttered a syllable to anyone else,
words of respect, most respectful--such words as I
thought could not possibly flow from his pen or fall
from his lips--addressed to myself. I at once
suspected that he had some favour to ask of me.


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Taking me aside a minute later: "Monsieur would be
doing me a very great service," he said to me, going
so far this time as to address me in the third
person, "by keeping from Mme. Verdurin and her
guests the nature of the profession that my father
practised with his uncle. It would be best to say that
he was, in your family, the agent for estates so
considerable as to put him almost on a level with
your         parents,"                Morel's             request               annoyed                me
intensely because it obliged me to magnify not his
father's position, in which I took not the slightest
interest, but the wealth--the apparent wealth of my
own, which I felt to be absurd. But he appeared so
unhappy, so pressing, that I could not refuse him.
"No, before dinner," he said in an imploring tone,
"Monsieur can easily find some excuse for taking
Mme. Verdurin aside." This was what, in the end, I
did, trying to enhance to the best of my ability the
distinction              of        Morel's             father,            without              unduly
exaggerating the 'style,' the 'worldly goods' of my
own family. It went like a letter through the post,
notwithstanding the astonishment of Mme. Verdurin,


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who had had a nodding acquaintance with my
grandfather. And as she had no tact, hated family
life (that dissolvent of the little nucleus), after
telling me that she remembered, long ago, seeing
my great-grandfather, and after speaking of him as
of somebody who was almost an idiot, who would
have been incapable of understanding the little
group, and who, to use her expression, "was not
one of us," she said to me: "Families are such a
bore, the only thing is to get right away from them;"
and at once proceeded to tell me of a trait in my
great-grandfather's                         character                of       which            I     was
unaware, although I might have suspected it at
home (I had never seen him, but they frequently
spoke of him), his remarkable stinginess (in contrast
to the somewhat excessive generosity of my great-
uncle, the friend of the lady in pink and Morel's
father's           employer):                  "Why,            of        course,            if     your
grandparents had such a grand agent, that only
shews that there are all sorts of people in a family.
Your grandfather's father was so stingy that, at the
end of his life, when he was almost half-witted--


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between you and me, he was never anything very
special, you are worth the whole lot of them--he
could not bring himself to pay a penny for his ride
on the omnibus. So that they were obliged to have
him followed by somebody who paid his fare for
him, and to let the old miser think that his friend M.
de Persigny, the Cabinet Minister, had given him a
permit to travel free on the omnibuses. But I am
delighted to hear that our Morel's father held such a
good position. I was under the impression that he
had been a schoolmaster, but that's nothing, I must
have misunderstood. In any case, it makes not the
slightest difference, for I must tell you that here we
appreciate                 only            true           worth,              the           personal
contribution, what I call the participation. Provided
that a person is artistic, provided in a word that he
is one of the brotherhood, nothing else matters."
The way in which Morel was one of the brotherhood
was--so far as I have been able to discover--that he
was sufficiently fond of both women and men to
satisfy either sex with the fruits of his experience of
the other. But what it is essential to note here is


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that as soon as I had given him my word that I
would speak on his behalf to Mme. Verdurin, as
soon, moreover, as I had actually done so, and
without any possibility of subsequent retractation,
Morel's 'respect' for myself vanished as though by
magic, the formal language of respect melted away,
and indeed for some time he avoided me, contriving
to appear contemptuous of me, so that if Mme.
Verdurin wanted me to give him a message, to ask
him to play something, he would continue to talk to
one of the faithful, then move on to another,
changing his seat if I approached him. The others
were obliged to tell him three or four times that I
had spoken to him, after which he would reply, with
an air of constraint, briefly, that is to say unless we
were by ourselves. When that happened, he was
expansive, friendly, for there was a charming side to
him. I concluded all the same from this first evening
that his must be a vile nature, that he would not, at
a pinch, shrink from any act of meanness, was
incapable of gratitude. In which he resembled the
majority of mankind. But inasmuch as I had


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inherited a strain of my grandmother's nature, and
enjoyed            the        diversity             of       other          people            without
expecting anything of them or resenting anything
that they did, I overlooked his baseness, rejoiced in
his gaiety when it was in evidence, and indeed in
what I believe to have been a genuine affection on
his part when, having gone the whole circuit of his
false ideas of human nature, he realised (with a
jerk, for he shewed strange reversions to a blind
and primitive savagery) that my kindness to him
was disinterested, that my indulgence arose not
from a want of perception but from what he called
goodness;                and,          more            important                 still,        I     was
enraptured by his art which indeed was little more
than an admirable virtuosity, but which made me
(without his being in the intellectual sense of the
word a real musician) hear again or for the first time
so much good music. Moreover a manager--M. de
Charlus (whom I had not suspected of such talents,
albeit Mme. de Guermantes, who had known him a
very different person in their younger days, asserted
that he had composed a sonata for her, painted a


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fan, and so forth), modest in regard to his true
merits, but possessing talents of the first order,
contrived to place this virtuosity at the service of a
versatile artistic sense which increased it tenfold.
Imagine a merely skilful performer in the Russian
ballet, formed, educated, developed in all directions
by M. Diaghileff.


       I had just given Mme. Verdurin the message
with which Morel had charged me and was talking to
M. de Charlus about Saint-Loup, when Cottard burst
into the room announcing, as though the house
were on fire, that the Cambremers had arrived.
Mme.          Verdurin,               not        wishing             to      appear             before
strangers such as M. de Charlus (whom Cottard had
not seen) and myself to attach any great importance
to the arrival of the Cambremers, did not move,
made no response to the announcement of these
tidings, and merely said to the doctor, fanning
herself gracefully, and adopting the tone of a
Marquise in the Théâtre Français: "The Baron has
just been telling us...." This was too much for


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Cottard! Less abruptly than he would have done in
the old days, for learning and high positions had
added weight to his utterance, but with the emotion,
nevertheless, which he recaptured at the Verdurins',
he exclaimed: "A Baron! What Baron? Where's the
Baron?"             staring              around              the         room             with          an
astonishment that bordered on incredulity. Mme.
Verdurin, with the affected indifference of a hostess
when a servant has, in front of her guests, broken a
valuable glass, and with the artificial, highfalutin
tone of a conservatoire prize-winner acting in a play
by the younger Dumas, replied, pointing with her
fan to Morel's patron: "Why, the Baron de Charlus,
to whom let me introduce you, M. le Professeur
Cottard." Mme. Verdurin was, for that matter, by no
means sorry to have an opportunity of playing the
leading lady. M. de Charlus proffered two fingers
which the Professor clasped with the kindly smile of
a 'Prince of Science.' But he stopped short upon
seeing the Cambremers enter the room, while M. de
Charlus led me into a corner to tell me something,
not without feeling my muscles, which is a German


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habit. M. de Cambremer bore no resemblance to the
old Marquise. To anyone who had only heard of him,
or of letters written by him, well and forcibly
expressed, his personal appearance was startling.
No doubt, one would grow accustomed to it. But his
nose had chosen to place itself aslant above his
mouth, perhaps the only crooked line, among so
many, which one would never have thought of
tracing upon his face, and one that indicated a
vulgar stupidity, aggravated still further by the
proximity of a Norman complexion on cheeks that
were like two ripe apples. It is possible that the eyes
of M. de Cambremer retained behind their eyelids a
trace of the sky of the Cotentin, so soft upon sunny
days         when            the         wayfarer                amuses               himself             in
watching, drawn up by the roadside, and counting in
their hundreds the shadows of the poplars, but
those eyelids, heavy, bleared and drooping, would
have prevented the least flash of intelligence from
escaping. And so, discouraged by the meagreness of
that azure glance, one returned to the big crooked
nose. By a transposition of the senses, M. de


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Cambremer looked at you with his nose. This nose
of     his was               not        ugly, it was                      if    anything               too
handsome,                 too         bold,          too         proud            of       its       own
importance. Arched, polished, gleaming, brand new,
it was amply prepared to atone for the inadequacy
of      his       eyes.           Unfortunately,                     if        the      eyes           are
sometimes the organ through which our intelligence
is revealed, the nose (to leave out of account the
intimate solidarity and the unsuspected repercussion
of one feature upon the rest), the nose is generally
the       organ           in      which            stupidity              is     most          readily
displayed.


       The propriety of the dark clothes which M. de
Cambremer invariably wore, even in the morning,
might well reassure those who were dazzled and
exasperated by the insolent brightness of the
seaside attire of people whom they did not know;
still it was impossible to understand why the chief
magistrate's wife should have declared with an air of
discernment and authority, as a person who knows
far more than you about the high society of Alençon,


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that on seeing M. de Cambremer one immediately
felt oneself, even before one knew who he was, in
the presence of a man of supreme distinction, of a
man of perfect breeding, a change from the sort of
person one saw at Balbec, a man in short in whose
company one could breathe freely. He was to her,
stifled by all those Balbec tourists who did not know
her world, like a bottle of smelling salts. It seemed
to me on the contrary that he was one of the people
whom my grandmother would at once have set
down as 'all wrong,' and that, as she had no
conception of snobbishness, she would no doubt
have been stupefied that he could have succeeded
in winning the hand of Mlle. Legrandin, who must
surely be difficult to please, having a brother who
was 'so refined.' At best one might have said of M.
de Cambremer's plebeian ugliness that it was
redolent of the soil and preserved a very ancient
local tradition; one was reminded, on examining his
faulty features, which one would have liked to
correct, of those names of little Norman towns as to
the etymology of which my friend the curé was


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mistaken because the peasants, mispronouncing the
names,            or      having             misunderstood                      the        Latin         or
Norman words that underlay them, have finally fixed
in     a      barbarism                 to      be        found           already             in       the
cartularies, as Brichot would have said, a wrong
meaning and a fault of pronunciation. Life in these
old towns may, for all that, be pleasant enough, and
M. de Cambremer must have had his good points,
for if it was in a mother's nature that the old
Marquise should prefer her son to her daughter-in-
law, on the other hand, she, who had other children,
of whom two at least were not devoid of merit, was
often heard to declare that the Marquis was, in her
opinion, the best of the family. During the short
time he had spent in the army, his messmates,
finding Cambremer too long a name to pronounce,
had given him the nickname Cancan, implying a
flow of chatter, which he in no way merited. He
knew how to brighten a dinner-party to which he
was invited by saying when the fish (even if it were
stale) or the entrée came in: "I say, that looks a
fine animal." And his wife, who had adopted upon


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entering the family everything that she supposed to
form part of their customs, put herself on the level
of her husband's friends and perhaps sought to
please him, like a mistress, and as though she had
been involved in his bachelor existence, by saying in
a careless tone when she was speaking of him to
officers: "You shall see Cancan presently. Cancan
has gone to Balbec, but he will be back this
evening." She was furious at having compromised
herself by coming to the Verdurins' and had done so
only upon the entreaties of her mother-in-law and
husband, in the hope of renewing the lease. But,
being less well-bred than they, she made no secret
of the ulterior motive and for the last fortnight had
been making fun of this dinner-party to her women
friends. "You know we are going to dine with our
tenants. That will be well worth an increased rent.
As a matter of fact, I am rather curious to see what
they have done to our poor old la Raspelière" (as
though she had been born in the house, and would
find there all her old family associations). "Our old
keeper told me only yesterday that you wouldn't


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know the place. I can't bear to think of all that must
be going on there. I am sure we shall have to have
the whole place disinfected before we move in
again." She arrived haughty and morose, with the
air of a great lady whose castle, owing to a state of
war,         is       occupied               by         the         enemy,               but         who
nevertheless feels herself at home and makes a
point of shewing the conquerors that they are
intruding. Mme. de Cambremer could not see me at
first for I was in a bay at the side of the room with
M. de Charlus, who was telling me that he had
heard from Morel that Morel's father had been an
'agent' in my family, and that he, Charlus, credited
me with sufficient intelligence and magnanimity (a
term common to himself and Swann) to forego the
mean and ignoble pleasure which vulgar little idiots
(I was warned) would not have failed, in my place,
to give themselves by revealing to our hosts details
which they might regard as derogatory. "The mere
fact that I take an interest in him and extend my
protection over him, gives him a pre-eminence and
wipes out the past," the Baron concluded. As I


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listened to him and promised the silence which I
would have kept even without any hope of being
considered in return intelligent and magnanimous, I
was looking at Mme. de Cambremer. And I had
difficulty in recognising the melting, savoury morsel
which I had had beside me the other afternoon at
teatime, on the terrace at Balbec, in the Norman
rock-cake that I now saw, hard as a rock, in which
the faithful would in vain have tried to set their
teeth. Irritated in anticipation by the knowledge that
her        husband                 inherited                his         mother's                simple
kindliness,              which           would            make            him          assume              a
flattered expression whenever one of the faithful
was presented to him, anxious however to perform
her duty as a leader of society, when Brichot had
been named to her she decided to make him and
her husband acquainted, as she had seen her more
fashionable friends do, but, anger or pride prevailing
over the desire to shew her knowledge of the world,
she said, not, as she ought to have said: "Allow me
to introduce my husband," but: "I introduce you to
my husband," holding aloft thus the banner of the


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Cambremers, without avail, for her husband bowed
as low before Brichot as she had expected. But all
Mme. de Cambremer's ill humour vanished in an
instant when her eye fell on M. de Charlus, whom
she knew by sight. Never had she succeeded in
obtaining an introduction, even at the time of her
intimacy with Swann. For as M. de Charlus always
sided with the woman, with his sister-in-law against
M. de Guermantes's mistresses, with Odette, at that
time still unmarried, but an old flame of Swann's,
against the new, he had, as a stern defender of
morals and faithful protector of homes, given
Odette--and kept--the promise that he would never
allow         himself             to       be        presented                 to       Mme.            de
Cambremer. She had certainly never guessed that it
was at the Verdurins' that she was at length to meet
this unapproachable person. M. de Cambremer knew
that this was a great joy to her, so great that he
himself was moved by it and looked at his wife with
an air that implied: "You are glad now you decided
to come, aren't you?" He spoke very little, knowing
that he had married a superior woman.                                                            "I, all


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unworthy," he would say at every moment, and
spontaneously quoted a fable of La Fontaine and
one of Florian which seemed to him to apply to his
ignorance, and at the same time enable him,
beneath the outward form of a contemptuous
flattery, to shew the men of science who were not
members of the Jockey that one might be a
sportsman                 and          yet          have           read           fables.             The
unfortunate thing was that he knew only two of
them.            And so they kept cropping up. Mme. de
Cambremer was no fool, but she had a number of
extremely irritating habits. With her the corruption
of names bore absolutely no trace of aristocratic
disdain. She was not the person to say, like the
Duchesse de Guermantes (whom the mere fact of
her birth ought to have preserved even more than
Mme. de Cambremer from such an absurdity), with
a pretence of not remembering the unfashionable
name (albeit it is now that of one of the women
whom it is most difficult to approach) of Julien de
Monchâteau:                     "a        little         Madame...                   Pica           della
Mirandola." No, when Mme. de Cambremer said a


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name wrong it was out of kindness of heart, so as
not to appear to know some damaging fact, and
when, in her sincerity, she admitted it, she tried to
conceal it by altering it.                              If, for instance, she was
defending a woman, she would try to conceal the
fact, while determined not to lie to the person who
had asked her to tell the truth, that Madame So-
and-so was at the moment the mistress of M.
Sylvain           Levy,           and         would           say:          "No...          I     know
absolutely nothing about her, I fancy that people
used to charge her with having inspired a passion in
a gentleman whose name I don't know, something
like Cahn, Kohn, Kuhn; anyhow, I believe the
gentleman has been dead for years and that there
was never anything between them." This is an
analogous, but contrary process to that adopted by
liars who think that if they alter their statement of
what they have been doing when they make it to a
mistress or merely to another man, their listener will
not immediately see that the expression (like her
Cahn, Kohn, Kuhn) is interpolated, is of a different
texture from the rest of the conversation, has a


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double meaning.


       Mme. Verdurin whispered in her husband's ear:
"Shall I offer my arm to the Baron de Charlus? As
you will have Mme. de Cambremer on your right, we
might divide the honours." "No," said M. Verdurin,
"since the other is higher in rank" (meaning that M.
de Cambremer was a Marquis), "M. de Charlus is,
strictly speaking, his inferior." "Very well, I shall put
him beside the Princess." And                                               Mme.            Verdurin
introduced Mme. Sherbatoff to M. de Charlus; each
of them bowed in silence, with an air of knowing all
about the other and of promising a mutual secrecy.
M. Verdurin introduced me to M. de Cambremer.
Before he had even begun to speak in his loud and
slightly stammering voice, his tall figure and high
complexion displayed in their oscillation the martial
hesitation of a commanding officer who tries to put
you at your ease and says: "I have heard about
you, I shall see what can be done; your punishment
shall be remitted; we don't thirst for blood here; it
will be all right." Then, as he shook my hand: "I


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think you know my mother," he said to me. The
word 'think' seemed to him appropriate to the
discretion of a first meeting, but not to imply any
uncertainty, for he went on: "I have a note for you
from her." M. de Cambremer took a childish
pleasure in revisiting a place where he had lived for
so long. "I am at home again," he said to Mme.
Verdurin, while his eyes marvelled at recognising
the flowers painted on panels over the doors, and
the marble busts on their high pedestals. He might,
all the same, have felt himself at sea, for Mme.
Verdurin had brought with her a quantity of fine old
things of her own. In this respect, Mme. Verdurin,
while regarded by the Cambremers as having turned
everything upside down, was not revolutionary but
intelligently conservative in a sense which they did
not understand. They were thus wrong in accusing
her of hating the old house and of degrading it by
hanging plain cloth curtains instead of their rich
plush, like an ignorant parish priest reproaching a
diocesan architect with putting back in its place the
old carved wood which the cleric had thrown on the


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rubbish heap, and had seen fit to replace with
ornaments purchased in the Place Saint-Sulpice.
Furthermore, a herb garden was beginning to take
the place, in front of the mansion, of the borders
that were the pride not merely of the Cambremers
but of their gardener. The latter, who regarded the
Cambremers as his sole masters, and groaned
beneath the yoke of the Verdurins, as though the
place were under occupation for the moment by an
invading army, went in secret to unburden his griefs
to its dispossessed mistress, grew irate at the scorn
that was heaped upon his araucarias, begonias,
house-leeks, double dahlias, and at anyone's daring
in so grand a place to grow such common plants as
camomile and maidenhair.                                    Mme. Verdurin felt this
silent opposition and had made up her mind, if she
took a long lease of la Raspelière or even bought the
place, to make one of her conditions the dismissal of
the gardener, by whom his old mistress, on the
contrary, set great store. He had worked for her
without payment, when times were bad, he adored
her; but by that odd multiformity of opinion which


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we find in the lower orders, among whom the most
profound moral scorn is embedded in the most
passionate admiration, which in turn overlaps old
and undying grudges, he used often to say of Mme.
de Cambremer who, in '70, in a house that she
owned in the East of France, surprised by the
invasion, had been obliged to endure for a month
the contact of the Germans: "What many people
can't forgive Mme. la Marquise is that during the
war she took the side of the Prussians and even had
them to stay in her house. At any other time, I
could understand it; but in war time, she ought not
to have done it. It is not right." So that he was
faithful to her unto death, venerated her for her
goodness, and firmly believed that she had been
guilty of treason. Mme. Verdurin was annoyed that
M. de Cambremer should pretend to feel so much at
home at la Raspelière. "You must notice a good
many changes, all the same," she replied. "For one
thing there were those big bronze Barbedienne
devils and some horrid little plush chairs which I
packed off at once to the attic, though even that is


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too good a place for them." After this bitter retort to
M. de Cambremer, she offered him her arm to go in
to dinner.               He hesitated for a moment, saying to
himself: "I can't, really, go in before M. de Charlus."
But supposing the other to be an old friend of the
house, seeing that he was not set in the post of
honour, he decided to take the arm that was offered
him and told Mme. Verdurin how proud he felt to be
admitted into the symposium (so it was that he
styled the little nucleus, not without a smile of
satisfaction at his knowledge of the term). Cottard,
who was seated next to M. de Charlus, beamed at
him through his glass, to make his acquaintance and
to break the ice, with a series of winks far more
insistent than they would have been in the old days,
and not interrupted by fits of shyness. And these
engaging glances, enhanced by the smile that
accompanied them, were no longer dammed by the
glass but overflowed on all sides. The Baron, who
readily imagined people of his own kind everywhere,
had no doubt that Cottard was one, and was making
eyes at him. At once he turned on the Professor the


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cold shoulder of the invert, as contemptuous of
those whom he attracts as he is ardent in pursuit of
such as attract him. No doubt, albeit each one of us
speaks           mendaciously                      of       the        pleasure,               always
refused him by destiny, of being loved, it is a
general law, the application of which is by no means
confined to the Charlus type, that the person whom
we do not love and who does love us seems to us
quite intolerable. To such a person, to a woman of
whom we say not that she loves us but that she
bores us, we prefer the society of any other, who
has neither her charm, nor her looks, nor her
brains. She will recover these, in our estimation,
only when she has ceased to love us. In this light,
we might see only the transposition, into odd terms,
of this universal rule in the irritation aroused in an
invert by a man who displeases him and runs after
him. And so, whereas the ordinary man seeks to
conceal what he feels, the invert is implacable in
making it felt by the man who provokes it, as he
would certainly not make it felt by a woman, M. de
Charlus             for         instance                by        the          Princesse                de


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Guermantes, whose passion for him bored him, but
flattered him. But when they see another man shew
a peculiar liking for them, then, whether because
they fail to realise that this liking is the same as
their own, or because it annoys them to be
reminded that this liking, which they glorify so long
as it is they themselves that feel it, is regarded as a
vice, or from a desire to rehabilitate themselves by
a sensational display in circumstances in which it
costs them nothing, or from a fear of being
unmasked which they at once recover as soon as
desire no longer leads them blindfold from one
imprudence to another, or from rage at being
subj